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Physical Activity in Pregnancy: A Qualitative Study


Conducting a qualitative study means being especially careful with the completion of the key steps required by the existing standards. Carrying out a basic qualitative research in their article, Weir, Bush, Robson, McParlin, Rankin and Bell (2010) have managed to incorporate all basic elements that the existing standards demand to include into the paper written in accordance with the specified study design.

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Although the authors of the study have omitted certain elements in their research, such as the purpose statement, the information on the aforementioned elements can be acquired in the course of reading the study. In addition, the authors should be credited for using a very clear outline and making concise and at the same time informative statements concerning the research outcomes. A good example of how a qualitative study should be carried out, the article in question is an engaging read and an all-embracive study.


Though the title of a study does not affect either the quality of the research, or the conclusions to be made, its accuracy and connection to the research topic is still considered very important, as the title introduces the study to the reader and, therefore, shapes the audience’s expectations concerning what is going to be explored. If a title incorporates the elements that are unrelated to the study, it may confuse the readers and, therefore, create the wrong impression of the study. However, Weir, Bush, Robson, McParlin, Rankin and Bell (2010) have chosen the title that reflects the subject of the research and the key goals of the study quite well.

Titled “Physical activity in pregnancy: a qualitative study of the beliefs of overweight and obese pregnant women,” the research article addresses the common myths about physical activity during pregnancy and the effects of these beliefs, particularly, obesity in pregnant women and other possible nutrition issues (Weir et al., 2010). Therefore, it can be assumed that the title describes the study quite well and defines the target population precisely. As far as the variables are concerned, the key ones (physical activity or the absence thereof among pregnant women and the health concerns of the latter) are incorporated into the research title quite well.

Quality of Abstract

The article also features a rather concise yet informative abstract, in which the key information concerning the study, the participants and the research results are included. Despite the fact that the abstract does not have the sections labeled as “statement of the problem” and “statement of the purpose,” it does incorporate the specified elements into its design. To be more specific, in the abstract, the authors explain what they aim at accomplishing: “The qualitative study described in this paper aimed to:

  • explore the views and experiences of overweight and obese pregnant women; and
  • inform interventions which could promote the adoption of physical activity during pregnancy” (Weir et al., 2010, p. 17).

Likewise, the problem is not outlined under a separate section of the abstract, yet it is stated in the background section of the latter quite clearly: “Whilst there has been increasing research interest in interventions which promote physical activity during pregnancy few studies have yielded detailed insights into the views and experiences of overweight and obese pregnant women themselves” (Weir et al., 2010, p. 17).

While the methodology of the research is identified clearly in the corresponding section of the abstract (“Methods”), the description of the study design does not have its own subtitle and is mentioned briefly in the background as a “qualitative study” (Weir et al., 2010, p. 17). The abstract, however, features both the “Results” and the “Conclusion” section, listing the key findings of the study and winding the research up in a rather neat way.

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Confidence in Findings of the Report

The findings of the report can be deemed as rather credible, as each of the researchers has a rather impressive academic and professional record. As the information provided in the article shows, Zoe Weir, Judith Bush, Judith Rankin and Ruth Bell are the members of the Institute of Health and Society, which proves that their contribution to the research is quite trustworthy. The Institute of Cellular Medicine, which Stephen C. Robson is a member of, can also be considered a very honorable academic establishment, where only highly knowledgeable staff is employed. Finally, the fact that Catherine McParlin, another contributor to the study, works at the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust also deserves a mentioning.

The specified information can also be viewed as a solid example for the fact that the people listed above have enough qualifications for carrying out the research on the topic. Aside from their being the members of academic establishments, however the article does not offer any information that may help identify them as suitable for the study of weight issues among pregnant women and the related nutrition concerns.

The article, however, has obviously been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Indeed, according to the information provided in the CINAHL, a database of all per-reviewed academic journals and scholarly sources in nursing, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth is considered a peer-reviewed academic journal indexed as 1471-2393 (CINAHL, 2014).

Statement of the Problem

Weir et al. (2010) identify the key phenomenon that they are going to study at the very beginning of their research in a very clear and concise manner: “There is a dearth of information regarding women’s attitudes to physical activity in pregnancy” (Weir et al., 2010, p. 19). In other words, a single look at the background of the research is enough to realize that the authors of the article are going to analyze the beliefs and myths that are common among pregnant women, as well as evaluate the effects of these myths on women’s health in the course of and after the pregnancy.

The reasons for choosing a qualitative research format over the other option concern primarily the goals of the study, as the researchers explain, Because of the need to explore the relationships between the variables, the necessity to apply the qualitative study design has emerged: “This paper provides qualitative insights into how overweight and obese pregnant women living in the UK feel about physical activity in pregnancy within the context of their day to day lives” (Weir et al., 2010, p. 19).

In other words, the experiences of overweight pregnant women have been incorporated into the research in order to locate the aftereffects of a misbalanced diet for the target demographics. Seeing that the goal of the study is to explore the relationships between the variables (i.e., the dieting choices and the health concerns of pregnant women), the qualitative research design was chosen, according to what Weir et al. (2010) say.

In addition to a brief mentioning of the practical reasons for the choice of the research design in question, the philosophical underpinnings for choosing the qualitative format over the quantitative one have been provided by the authors. Again, Weir et al. do not mention the philosophical implications directly, yet they address them in the introduction to their study in a rather obvious manner. According to the scholars, it was essential that the study could explore the relationship between a mother and a baby in a more accurate manner. One could argue, though, that a woman’s perception of self makes the philosophical basis of the study.

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Purpose: Identifying the Author’s Intent

As it has been stressed above, Weir et al. have explained the key purpose of their study very well in the abstract. However, the introduction also features a range of clarifications concerning the goal of the research and incorporates an array of facts concerning the necessity for the study to be carried out and the urgency for the research to be undertaken. Specifically, apart from reiterating the key arguments concerning the purpose that were represented in the abstract, Weir et al. (2010) mention previous studies of the issue in question, stating that a expansion of the previous studies is required: “Previous research has highlighted that weight and family size may influence physical activity participation in non-pregnant women” (Weir et al., 2010, p. 19).

Method: The Approach Chosen

The methodology created by Weir et al. is what makes the study stand out of the range of similar researches. According to the authors, the approach chosen is based on the tenets of both the Theory of Planned Behavior and the concepts of the theory of Subtle Realism (Weir et al., 2010, p. 19). As a result, the correlation between the two key variables of the study, i.e., the beliefs popular among women and the physical activity intentions within the realm of a daily life of pregnant women, can be located, according to the claims made by Weir et al. (2010).

As far as the compatibility of the research method and the research design is concerned, one must note that the specified approach allows for establishing the link between the variables in question, according to what the researchers state. Therefore, it can be assumed that the specified method is applicable for carrying out a qualitative study.

In addition, the combination of the Subtle Realism and the Theory of Planned Behavior seems to be quite suitable for carrying out an evaluation of the effects of beliefs concerning dieting options popular among the pregnant women on the outcomes of their pregnancy and the following postnatal period. Seeing that the Theory of the Subtle Realism allows for locating the effects of the social world on the actions of the patients, whereas TPB helps discover the link between behavioral intentions, the social beliefs and the subjective norms (Weir et al., 2010, p. 19). Therefore, the choice of the method in question seems quite legitimate.

Sampling: Participants and Their Selection

The choice of participants depended greatly on their body mass index (BMI), according to the explanations provided by the authors of the study. Weir et al. (2010) claim that the fourteen women chosen for the interview were either overweight or obese (Weir et al., 2010, p. 18.). To be more specific, 20 women, whose weight could be described as beyond the accepted norm, were recruited for interviewing purposes. Weir et al. give a rather thorough description of the study participants by mentioning their age (older than 16) and their body mass, including a detailed account of the background of the study participants.

The authors outlined the family related data of the participants, noting that 47% of the research subjects had no previous children; however, apart from the information concerning the participants’ family record, Weir et al. (2010) also mention the ethnicity related details identifying 93% of women as white, and describing the career progress of the women in question (“76% were employed at recruitment and 33% were educated to degree level” (Weir et al., 2010, p. 19)). Therefore, the selection of the participants is described in a rather detailed manner. All of the people chosen for participating in the research can be viewed as appropriate for the study, as they suit the basic demands (an observation of overweight pregnant women).

Data Collection and What It Is Based on

The data collection for the study in question is based mostly on the experience of the participants. Weir et al. (2010) conducted a range of interviews, which were the key source for information retrieval in the course of the research. As the authors themselves explained, the study was based on a “detailed exploration of women’s views and experiences using a flexible and responsive approach” (Weir et al., 2010, p. 19). In other words, the experiences of the participants were obviously the focus of the research.

Weir et al. also provide a rather deep insight on the data collection methods used in the study. Defined by the researchers as “semi-structured” and “in depth” (Weir et al., 2010, p. 19), the interviews were the key to retrieving the required information. The data collection strategies, i.e., the interviews, are described in a very thorough manner, with a detailed analysis of the data that the research participants had to offer to the authors of the article.

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It should also be noted that Weir et al. pay a special attention to the protection of the research participants. Before the study commenced, several research subjects have been dismissed because of the age or consent issues; as a result, only the people who were able to and agreed to partake in the research, were included into the study and allowed for being interviewed.

The research has been saturated with the acquired data extensively; as it has been mentioned above, the study includes a range of quotations from the interviews carried out among the research participants. It is quite hard to nail down the point, at which the research becomes saturated with data, though; the authors, in their turn, also never mention the stage, at which the data acquired from the participants stops informing their further actions. However, it can be suggested that the research becomes completely saturated with the information provided by the participants once the opinion of the participant aged 28 is provided.

Indeed, the latter claims that the information concerning nutrition issues for pregnant women is often conflicting and contradictory, which is quite close to the information provided by the previous respondent: “if you listened and took notice of everything that you heard, you wouldn’t know where you were” (Weir et al., 2010, p. 22). The data collection procedures, however, are beyond explicit – Weir et al. make every step of their study crystal clear, thus, facilitating a better understanding of the subject matter and making it obvious that the problem needs an urgent solution.

Data Analysis: What the Research Results Have to Offer

Weir et al. (2010) define the data analysis strategy that they have chosen for processing the information represented in the study as the Framework Approach (Weir et al., 2010, p. 19). As the researchers explain, the specified approach creates the premises for exploring the original data in their relation to the TPB (Weir et al., 2010, p. 19). The researchers remain true to the data, taking the evidence of every single participant into account. Thus, it became possible to embrace the problem and review it from different perspectives, therefore, incorporating every single factor that puts pregnant women under an emotional pressure and makes them change their nutritional patterns towards an unhealthy concept of dieting.

By outlining the key steps of the data analysis process in a very clear and concise manner, Weir et al. (2010) make the process in question outstandingly clear to the audience. While some of the information, particularly, the one that is related to the influence of the family, seems to have been downplayed considerably compared to the effects that social stereotypes have on pregnant women and their concept of proper dieting, it can be assumed that the researchers have stayed quite true to the data that was retrieved in the course of the interviews.

As a result, the research results can be interpreted as rather general, which presupposes that the study outcomes can be used for designing a general principle of dieting for pregnant women. In other words, the results are meaningful to both the study participants and the people, who have not been involved in the research. The findings have been presented in the context of pregnancy in obese women, which makes the study results fully compatible with its goals.

Conclusions, Implications and Recommendations

The conclusions presented in the study give the reader a rather clear idea of the context that they are supposed to be used in; every single sentence in the research results section points at the fact that the study was aimed at locating the proper dieting principles of pregnant women. In addition to offering an extensive overview of the research outcomes and listing the key results in the corresponding section, Weir et al. (2010) list the key recommendations for all those concerned, pointing at the fact that the present-day healthcare facilities for pregnant women lack “provision of personalized support by the midwife” (Weir et al., 2010, p. 23).

In addition, the researchers have discovered that the healthcare providers traditionally avoid giving any pieces of advice concerning the dieting strategies that should be followed in the course of pregnancy. While the specified issue may be merely a coincidence, it needs to be looked into a bit closer. Therefore, the researchers recommend that additional studies on the subject of healthcare instructions for pregnant women should be conducted.

Eventually, the significance of the study deserves a mentioning. Even though the analysis carried out by Weir et al. is important by default as a set of instructions concerning the precaution measures for pregnant women, the fact that the researchers manage to address some of the most common and most dangerous prejudices concerning the subject matter makes the study all the more important. An engaging reading and a thorough analysis of one of the major issues in the present-day healthcare, the study by weir et al. (2010) is a specimen of a well written qualitative study.

Reference List

CINAHL. (2014). CINAHL complete database coverage list. Web.

Weir, Z., Bush, J., Robson, S. C., McParlin, C., Rankin, J. & Bell, R. (2010). Physical activity in pregnancy: a qualitative study of the beliefs of overweight and obese pregnant women. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 10(1), 18–24.

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