Representations of weight and body image during pregnancy: An investigation

  • Emma Hodgkinson

Student thesis: Doctor of Clinical Psychology


In this thesis, the researcher explores the way in which weight and body image are represented and experienced during pregnancy by both midwives and pregnant women. This investigation is presented as four papers: a literature review (paper 1), two empirical papers (papers 2a and 2b), a commentary on the empirical papers (paper 3), and a critical appraisal and reflection on the research process as a whole (paper 4). The literature review utilises a thematic metasynthesis approach, and conceptualises the way in which pregnant women experience their physical body and their body image within the context of social constructionism. Seventeen qualitative studies were synthesised using Thomas and Harden's (2008) guidelines, yielding three interpretive themes and six subordinate descriptive themes. These themes are discussed in detail in terms of their impact on women's experiences of the pregnancy-related physical changes and expectations for postpartum. Clinical implications are identified for health professionals in terms of supporting women to adjust to pregnancy-related changes.In the empirical studies, repertory grids are used to explore the construal of midwives by pregnant women with a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 30kg/m2, and the way in which midwives construe pregnant women with respect to their BMI. These studies are divided into two population-specific papers, with the findings integrated and discussed in a commentary specifically exploring the implications of these groups' construing for service provision. Recommendations are made to address areas of need within maternity services.The final paper provides a critical appraisal of each aspect of the research, and the line of enquiry as a whole. Personal reflections are made on the research process.
Date of Award31 Dec 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAnja Wittkowski (Supervisor) & Dougal Hare (Supervisor)

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