New Guidelines Set Pregnancy Weight Gain for Obese

An Impetus for Losing Weight before Baby?

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New Guidelines Set Pregnancy Weight Gain for Obese

An Impetus for Losing Weight Before Baby?

-Jennifer Lubell

If you’re obese and planning a pregnancy, researchers have a word of caution: don’t gain too much weight.

The Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, in updating their 1990 guidelines on pregnancy weight gain, included a new, relatively narrow weight gain range of no more than 11 to 20 pounds for obese women – whose body mass index is greater than 30. (The previous report had no formal category for obese women, just a footnote that the target weight gain should be at least 15 pounds).

Weight gain recommendations remain unchanged for women who are underweight (28 to 40 pounds), normal weight (25 to 35 pounds) and overweight (15 to 25 pounds).

The researchers matter-of-factly state that the new recommendation reflects changing U.S. demographics, “particularly the surge in the number of Americans who are overweight or obese.” Women, in particular, are heavier, and many are gaining too much weight during their pregnancy, the report stated.

What’s sobering is that such a category had to be created in the first place.

At a time when seats on mass transit and clothing items are increasing in size, these new guidelines seem to be yet another sign that Americans are getting heavier and society has to accommodate that fact.
While some women reading the new guidelines might view an 11-20 pound weight gain target as too rigid and unrealistic, experts stress that the health risks obese pregnant women face are too grave to overlook.

Thankfully, researchers “are beginning to address the obvious issue that if you’re already overweight before conception, do you really need to be gaining extra?” said MeMe Roth, president and founder of National Action Against Obesity, who added that she’d like to see more recommendations on nutrition and exercise guidelines for prospective parents.

To minimize risks, the guidelines do urge women to conceive while at a normal body mass index and gain within these new recommendations during pregnancy.

Serious concerns exist about obesity “and the complications it can cause during pregnancy and delivery for the woman and her baby,” said Alan Fleischman, medical director of the March of Dimes. “We realize that this is a sensitive subject for many women and that some health care professionals are uncomfortable discussing it, but weight is a risk factor that can be modified.”

If a woman starts a pregnancy at a healthy weight, “it can lower the risk of a preterm birth, birth defects, and other complications, including a c-section,” Fleischman said.

Brette Sember, author of “Your Plus-Size Pregnancy,” acknowledges that it’s definitely easier to become pregnant after losing weight.

These guidelines, however, send a clear message to obstetricians “that they need to aware and sensitive to the fact that many of their patients are overweight and that this is an issue they need to become more educated about and more sensitive about,” Sember said.

What do you think of the new pregnancy weight gain guidelines for obese women?

Jennifer Lubell is a healthcare reporter in Washington, D.C.

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