How Pregnant African American Women View Pregnancy Weight Gain


  • Disclosure: The authors report no conflict of interest or relevant financial relationships.


Susan W. Groth PhD, RN, WHNP-BC, University of Rochester, School of Nursing, 601 Elmwood Ave. Box SON, Rochester, NY 14642. Susan_groth@



To gain insight into how low-income, pregnant African American women viewed their weight gain while pregnant and how they managed their weight during pregnancy.


Descriptive study using three focus groups.


Women were recruited from urban prenatal care sites and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) services in a medium-sized urban northeastern city.


Twenty-six adult, low-income, pregnant African American women, age 18 to 39; the majority were within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.


Three focus groups were conducted utilizing open-ended questions related to pregnancy weight gain. Content analysis was used to analyze the verbatim transcripts. Analysis focused on meaning, intention, and context. Groups were compared and contrasted at the within and between group levels to identify themes.


Four themes were identified that provided insight into how women viewed their pregnancy weight gain and managed weight gain during pregnancy: (a) pregnancy weight gain: no matter how much means a healthy baby; (b) weight retention: it happens; (c) there is a limit: weight gain impact on appearance; and (d) watching and waiting: plans for controlling weight.


Low-income African American women, though cognizant of the likelihood of retention of weight following pregnancy, are not focused on limiting their gestational weight gain. The cultural acceptance of a larger body size along with the belief that gaining more weight is indicative of a healthy infant present challenges for interventions to limit excessive gestational weight gain.