Using knowledge mobilisation theory to address maternal obesity in Birmingham

The number of pregnant women classed as obese continues to rise across the globe. Using a range of innovative techniques, this project will investigate how to remedy such a prevalent issue.

A pregnant woman does yoga in the park


Research background

Maternal obesity has been linked with a myriad of risks to the health of both the mother and the foetus.

There is evidence that the prevalence of pregnant women categorised as overweight or obese has increased markedly at both global (Chen, Xu and Yan Yan, 2018), national and local level (NHS Digital, 2019).

Previous research surrounding the experiences of obese pregnant women and their midwives has demonstrated several underlying issues.

These include a perceived lack of consistent and relevant information (Knight-Agarwal et al., 2016; Atkinson and McNamara, 2017), midwives’ reluctance to risk damaging their relationship with women (Foster and Hirst, 2014, Atkinson and McNamara, 2017) and midwives’ lack of confidence in their advice-giving skills (Foster and Hirst, 2014).

Research aims

This project will entail finding effective ways in which to move existing and new knowledge about maternal obesity to midwives and women. Another objective of the project is to co-design, implement and evaluate strategies alongside women and midwives that will support a reduction in maternal obesity in the local area.

 How will the research be carried out?

The plan is to gather data through a series of focus groups with midwives and women who are overweight and in their first pregnancy. 

Intended outcomes

The intention behind these are to co-design a targeted social marketing campaign surrounding maternal obesity. This should lead to improvements in knowledge and attitudes, thus supporting a reduction in maternal obesity in the local area. This should have an impact upon the practice of midwives, and feeds into many policies, including the following:

  • NHS long term plan (2019) – Targets for improved outcomes for mothers and babies
  • Public Health England Strategy (2020-2025) - Healthier diets, healthier weight strand