Resisting, reproducing, resigned? Low-income pregnant women's discursive constructions and experiences of health and weight gain

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In this article, we use qualitative methodology to explore how 15 low-income women of diverse sociocultural location construct and experience health and weight gain during pregnancy, as well as how they position themselves in relation to messages pertaining to weight gain, femininity and motherhood that they encounter in their lives. Discussing the findings through a feminist poststructuralist lens, we conclude that the participants are complex, fragmented subjects, interpellated by multiple and at times conflicting subject positions. While the discourse of maternal responsibility (i.e. managing personal behaviours for the baby's health) is very much in evidence in their narratives, embodied experiences of pregnancy, lived experiences of financial constraints and religious beliefs provided some with an alternative discourse and resistant subject position. Participants also had mixed emotions about weight gain; they recognized the need to gain weight in order to have a healthy pregnancy, but weight gain was also not welcome as participants reproduced the dominant discourse of obesity and the discourse of ‘feminine’ bodily norms. Based on our results, we advocate for change to recent clinical guidelines and social discourses around pregnancy and weight gain, as well as for policies that provide pregnant women with a range of health-promoting resources.

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