A recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed that nearly half of American women gain too much weight during pregnancy.
In fact, less than one third of women maintained the correct pregnancy weight according to their body mass index (BMI), implying the majority of child-bearing women run the risk of having a complicated labor and delivery, or becoming obese and developing health problems later in life. These women also run the risk of passing off health problems to their offspring.
The amount of weight a woman gains during pregnancy, also known as gestational weight gain (GWG), is important for the longterm health of the mother and child. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has provided recommended weight gain ranges, depending on the woman’s BMI. To find out if women were adhering to their recommended GWGs, the CDC analyzed 2013 birth data from women in 41 states. Since 2003, birth certificates are required to include the mother’s height, pre-pregnancy weight, and delivery weight. For the five states that have yet to use the revised birth certificate, a questionnaire was distributed to mothers to gather pregnancy-related information.
Overall, 32.1% had appropriate GWG, while nearly 50% were in the excessive range for GWG. More than 20% were in the inadequate GWG range. Women in the excessive range tended to be overweight before pregnancy. The high prevalence of excessive GWG is of concern because excessive GWG increases the risk for macrosomia, postpartum weight retention, and obesity in mothers and possibly their children.
Experts say women of normal weight should add 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy, while overweight women should gain only an additional 15 to 25. Obese women should only add 10 to 20. And while women may need to consume extra calories (350-450 per day) to support the metabolic demands during pregnancy, this should typically occur later, in the second and third trimesters.
The fact that so many women fell in GWG ranges not recommended by IOM or the CDC indicates the need for effective interventions, encouraging women about the importance of reaching a recommended weight given their BMI. Such interventions might include focusing on dietary goals and increased physical activity. Pregnant women are encouraged to engage in at least 150 minutes of physical activity (i.e., brisk walking, jogging) per week. Overweight women who are looking to diet during pregnancy are also encouraged to keep an account of their dietary intake, as well as maintain regular prenatal appointments to ensure they are receiving an adequate amount of calories per day. Of course unusually thin women need to remain cautious during pregnancy as well. Underweight women run the risk of delivering a very small baby, which could lead to health problems later on.
A good rule of thumb to remember is that it’s not about eating twice as much — it’s about eating twice as healthy.
Photo credit: The Guardian