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Reframing and Resisting: How Women Navigate the Medicalization of Pregnancy Weight

Reproduction, Health, and Medicine

ISBN: 978-1-78756-172-4, eISBN: 978-1-78756-171-7

Publication date: 22 November 2019


In the contemporary US, pregnant women must navigate competing ideas about their bodies, including expectations for weight gain. Given that there are few social spaces where women may gain weight without disapproval, pregnancy represents a period when women are allowed to put on weight. However, gaining weight means doing so within the context of the obesity “epidemic” and increased medical surveillance of the body. To explore how women navigate the medicalization of pregnancy weight, I draw on data from in-depth interviews with 40 pregnant and recently pregnant women. Findings indicate that women reframe the meaning of pregnancy weight as “baby weight,” rather than body weight. This allows them to view it as a temporary condition that is “for the baby,” while holding two concurrent body images – a pregnant and a non-pregnant version of themselves. Women also resist the quantification of their maternity weight, either by not keeping track or not looking at scales in the doctor’s office. Doing so prevented baby weight from turning back into body weight – a concrete and meaningful number on the scale. Such resistance to quantification is often accomplished with the help of doctors and healthcare professionals who do not explicitly discuss weight gain with their patients. These findings suggest that women rely on a variety of strategies to navigate the medicalization of pregnancy weight, and provides another lens through which to understand how and why women may make similar choices about other medicalized aspects of their pregnancy (or pregnancy experiences).




I would like to thank my interviewees for their time and participation in this project. I am also grateful to Beth Montemurro, Laura Orrico, Jacqueline Clark, Marc Eaton, and Kim Greenwell, as well as the editors and reviewers of this volume, for their support and helpful feedback on earlier drafts of this manuscript.


Hutson, D.J. (2019), "Reframing and Resisting: How Women Navigate the Medicalization of Pregnancy Weight", Reproduction, Health, and Medicine (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 20), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 109-128.



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