Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can put you at risk

Many women gain too much, making severe childbirth complications more likely

Eating for two? Not so fast, according to a new study that looked at weight gain and childbirth delivery complications.

Women above the recommended weight gain range had higher rates of delivery complications. In fact, they were much more likely to have heart failure during a procedure as well as require ventilation. While women who started with a body mass index (BMI) in the obese range had higher rates of severe complications, those with below normal healthy pre-pregnancy BMIs had a high risk when their pregnancy weight gain was higher than the guidelines.

What are the guidelines?

The National Academy of Medicine guidelines recommend:

Pregnancy weight gain

Below normal: below 18.5

28 to 40 pounds

Normal: 18.5 to 24.9

25 to 35 pounds

Overweight: 25 to 29.9

15 to 25 pounds

Obese: 30 or higher

11 to 20 pounds

The study also noted that nearly half of expectant mothers in this country gain more than the guidelines during pregnancy. This is especially an issue for women who are already overweight or obese.

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“This study shows that watching weight gain during pregnancy is important for everyone,” said Kenneth J. Payne, M.D., obstetrician and gynecologist with Norton OB/GYN Associates, who was not involved in the study. “It’s not just for people who are already overweight or obese.

“The United States has high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity — higher than they should be. Something as simple as controlling weight gain with proper nutrition may help us reduce those rates.”

In the study, gaining more than 20 pounds above the recommended weights led to higher risk of heart failure, severe blood pressure, transfusion or need for a ventilator.

“We have necessary procedures in place to help women should they experience an issue during childbirth,” Dr. Payne said. “Prevention is always the best strategy.”

Recommendations for controlling pregnancy weight gain

  • Early in your pregnancy, talk to your obstetrician about how much weight you should gain. If possible, work with your obstetrician before you’re pregnant to determine how best to get your body ready for a baby.
  • Stay away from high-calorie snacks and empty calories such as chips and candy. Focus instead on healthier foods, including a lot of vegetables.
  • Monitor your weight gain and make adjustments to your eating habits throughout your pregnancy.
  • Continue to exercise to keep your entire body healthy and strong. Talk to your doctor about safe exercise, especially after the 12th week of pregnancy.

“So many women think they can eat whatever they want and increase calories because they are ‘eating for two,’” Dr. Payne said. “That is just not realistic and can actually cause more issues in the long run.”


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