Background: In Sweden, midwives play prominent supportive role in antenatal care by counselling and promoting healthy lifestyles. This study aimed to explore how Swedish midwives experience the counselling of pregnant women on physical activity, specifically focusing on facilitators and barriers during pregnancy. Also, addressing whether the midwives perceive that their own lifestyle and body shape may influence the content of the counselling they provide.
Methods: Eight focus group discussions (FGD) were conducted with 41 midwives working in antenatal care clinics in different parts of Sweden between September 2013 and January 2014. Purposive sampling was applied to ensure a variation in age, work experience, and geographical location. The FGD were digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using manifest and latent content analysis.
Results: The main theme- "An on-going individual adjustment" was built on three categories: "Counselling as a challenge"; "Counselling as walking the thin ice" and "Counselling as an opportunity" reflecting the midwives on-going need to adjust their counselling depending on each woman's specific situation. Furthermore, counselling pregnant women on physical activity was experienced as complex and ambiguous, presenting challenges as well as opportunities. When midwives challenged barriers to physical activity, they risked being rejected by the pregnant women. Despite risking rejection, the midwives tried to promote increased physical activity based on their assessment of individual needs of the pregnant woman. Some participants felt that their own lifestyle and body shape might negatively influence the counselling; however, the majority of participants did not agree with this perspective.
Conclusions: Counselling on physical activity during pregnancy may be a challenging task for midwives, characterized by on-going adjustments based on a pregnant woman's individual needs. Midwives strive to find individual solutions to encourage physical activity. However, to improve their counselling, midwives may benefit from further training, also organizational and financial barriers need to be addressed. Such efforts might result in improved opportunities to further support pregnant women's motivation for performance of physical activity.
2014. Vol. 14, 343