Specialist midwives are helping mothers-to-be manage their weight as part of a landmark project at St Richard’s Hospital.
The 2gether Weight Management in Pregnancy Programme is an intensive course of support for women with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more.
Led by the midwifery team at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, it offers prospective mums a weekly support meeting where they can be weighed and ask for advice.
The programme is not about dieting and slimming, but focuses on helping women lead a healthy lifestyle and helping women maintain a healthy weight as their baby grows.
Being overweight while pregnant can increase the risk of complications for both mother and baby.
The scheme was originally piloted at the Treehouse Children and Family Centre in Bersted, Bognor Regis last year and has now been extended to include St Richard’s and Worthing hospitals.
So far more than 90 per cent of the 300 women who took part in the first study managed to maintain their weight or prevent excessive weight gain during pregnancy.
It is hoped even more women will have access to it, with the trust estimating it would benefit 950 of the 5,500 women who give birth each year.
Senior midwifery manager and public health lead, Kelly Pierce, who founded the programme, said: “Unfortunately women with a BMI over 30 are at increased risk of complications during pregnancy and birth.
“However, this programme has created awareness, motivation and confidence for them to actively make changes to their lifestyles in order to decrease some of these complications and by resisting the ‘eating for two’ old wives’ tale.
“The mums-to-be attending the group have found that this can really make a difference.”
The course is on offer to women from 12 weeks into their pregnancy through to 12 weeks post natal.
It runs alongside the maternal medicine clinic so women can attend their hospital appointment before or after the meeting.