Wednesday, October 21, 2009

No Weight Gain Needed for Obese Pregnant Women

Gaining no weight during pregnancy or even losing a little weight may be healthier for obese women and their babies than gaining too much weight.

In research made public today, the investigators from Kaiser Permanente confirmed that obese women who gain more weight than they should during pregnancy are more likely to keep the weight on.

Nearly three out of four women in the study gained more than 15 pounds during pregnancy, and, on average, these women retained 40% of the extra weight a full year after giving birth.

"Younger women and first-time mothers were the most likely to gain too much weight," obstetrician/gynecologist and study lead author Kimberly K. Vesco, MD, tells WebMD. "The extra weight increased the risk for complications like hypertension, diabetes, preeclampsia, C-sections, and birth injuries."

Nearly half of pregnant women in the United States today are either overweight or obese -- up from about 25% four decades ago.

Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, and for most women that means carrying at least 30 extra pounds. A BMI of 18.5-24.9 is considered normal weight, and 25-29.9 is considered overweight.

For example, a 5-foot, 2-inch-tall woman who weighs 135 pounds would be considered at the upper limit of the normal range (BMI = 25), and she would be considered obese at 165 pounds (BMI = 30).

A 5-foot, 7-inch woman would be considered normal weight up to 160 pounds (BMI = 25) and obese at 195 (BMI = 30).

The independent health policy group Institute of Medicine now recommends that normal-weight women gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy, overweight women gain 15 to 25 pounds, and that obese women gain between 11 and 20 pounds.

Some studies suggest that babies born to obese women who don't gain much weight during pregnancy have fewer delivery complications and better outcomes than babies born to women who gain more weight than is recommended.