Pregnant women and midwives are not in tune with each other about dietary counseling studies in Swedish antenatal care

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå universitet

Abstract: Background During pregnancy, a healthy diet is beneficial for the expecting mother and her fetus. Midwives in antenatal care have an ideal position for promoting a healthy diet and thereby help women to not only lower the risks of pregnancy complications and adverse birth outcomes, but improve maternal health. The overall aim of this thesis was to describe diet and dietary changes during pregnancy from the women’s and the midwives’ perspectives with a focus on dietary counseling. The thesis comprises four studies. The specific aims in the respective studies were to: I) Describe pregnant women’s attitudes to and experiences of dietary information and advice, as well as dietary management during pregnancy. II) Explore midwives’ strategies in challenging dietary counseling situations. III) Describe how midwives’ perceive their role and their significance in dietary counseling of pregnant women.  IV) Describe women’s food habits during pregnancy and up to six months postpartum.Methods Studies I-III were qualitative. Study I included focus group interviews with 23 pregnant women. Study II included telephone interviews with 17 experienced midwives working in Swedish antenatal health care. Study III included the same 17 interviews from study II and supplemented them with four face-to-face-interviews. Qualitative content analysis was performed in all three studies. Study IV was a longitudinal study including a quantitative analysis of a questionnaire, which was given to women at five occasions during and after pregnancy. It concerned their food habits and it was answered by 163 women. The quantitative data was analyzed using comparative and descriptive statistics.Results The overall findings of the thesis were summarized as the main theme “Pregnant women and midwives are not in tune with each other about dietary counseling”. The main theme included the two themes ‘Pregnant women are concerned about risks for their child but fail to change to healthier dietary habits over time’, and ‘Midwives view themselves as authorities, though questioned ones’. In subthemes it was highlighted that pregnant women are well informed and interested in risk reduction for their child’s best and that they try to do their best to improve their diet during pregnancy. However, their diet did not reach levels of healthy eating recommendations and became even unhealthier after pregnancy. It was also highlighted that midwives experienced insufficient knowledge in dietary issues and related risks and that they had difficulties to give dietary support to pregnant women. Midwives were found to mainly focus on giving information and they lacked sufficient competence for challenging counseling.Conclusion Pregnant women, on the one hand, experience a lack of support from the midwives when dealing with dietary changes. The midwives, on the other hand, feel exposed and express a need for both further education in dietary issues and training in counseling. Women’s food habits during, but in particular after pregnancy need improvement, and dietary counseling could be more focused on healthy eating in a long-term perspective.