Maternal—fetal attachment and engagement with antenatal advice

Emily Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Following research demonstrating the effect of the intrauterine environment on childhood health and health in later life, women are encouraged to adopt healthy behaviours during pregnancy in order to promote the health of the fetus.

This research aimed to explore the influences on women's engagement with healthy practices during pregnancy, particularly the effect of maternal—fetal attachment.

This qualitative study used nine semi-structured interviews and one focus group. These were conducted with women who were pregnant or who had recently given birth. Participants were questioned about their attitudes towards and engagement with the health advice they received during pregnancy.

The bond felt with their baby was an important influence on women's decisions to adopt healthy behaviours during pregnancy. This bond was created in many ways. Previous studies have found an increase in women's adherence to healthy behaviours as levels of maternal–fetal attachment increase. However, this research found that as women became more bonded to the fetus they became more reassured of its wellbeing, and were less anxious about strictly adhering to healthy diets or abstaining from alcohol.

If health advice emphasises the wellbeing of the fetus in efforts to improve maternal health behaviour during pregnancy, women may not see its relevance if their embodied experience and diagnostic tests indicate that the fetus is healthy. The health advice offered to women should be sensitive to their personal experiences of pregnancy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)566-575
JournalBritish Journal of Midwifery
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 16 Aug 2013


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