Pregnancy can bring a load of worries, and now there may be one more worry to add to the load. The amount of weight gained during pregnancy has the potential to impact the obesity risk of the baby. Both gaining too much weight and gaining too little weight may lead to obesity in the baby, a new study shows.
17 percent of children and adolescents in the U.S. are obese. This new study, which was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, may offer a reason for some of these numbers that is not genetic. Women with a normal body mass index (BMI) before pregnancy that do not gain the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy may be putting their children at risk of becoming obese.
4,145 racially diverse women who had children that were between the ages of two to five were included in this study, making it one of the largest studies to question the current Institute of Medicine weight-gain-during-pregnancy recommendations. The study found that women who are at a normal weight before pregnancy and then gain too much weight during pregnancy are 80 percent more likely to have an obese child than those who were at a normal weight before pregnancy and gained the advised amount of weight during pregnancy. What may be more surprising, is that women who do not gain enough weight do not fall that far behind in the risk of having a child become obese. Women who are of a normal weight before pregnancy who do not gain enough weight during pregnancy are 63 percent more likely to give birth to a child who will become obese than those who followed recommendations.
The lead author of the study, Sneha Sridhar, MPH from Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, explains the possible reasons behind the new information that a woman’s weight gain during pregnancy may impact her baby’s risk of obesity by stating that the amount of weight gain during pregnancy may permanently impact mechanisms that control metabolism. Sridhar went on to say that this could have long-term effects on the growth and weight of the child.
The current recommendations for weight gain during pregnancy are determined by the weight of the woman before pregnancy. Currently, women who are obese before pregnancy are advised to gain between 11 and 20 pounds during pregnancy. Recommendations for women who are overweight are to gain 15 to 25 pounds over the course of the pregnancy. Women at a normal weight are instructed to gain 25 to 35 pounds. Women who are underweight at the start of pregnancy are encouraged to gain 28 to 40 pounds while pregnant.
While this news may cause some pregnant women to worry, it really does not change much in regards to the recommendations for women. Doctors may be advised to monitor the weight of pregnant women more, or to counsel more with their patients about the proper amount of weight to gain. As far as a woman’s diet during pregnancy, the advice of eating a healthy, balanced diet still holds true. The main thing to take away from the study is to avoid weight extremes.
More research will need to be done to better understand the results of this study. The study should encourage women to eat well during pregnancy, receive prenatal care and discuss their weight gain with their care provider. Keeping in mind that the amount of weight gained during pregnancy may impact her baby’s risk of obesity may help women to avoid weight gain extremes, whether that is too much or too little.
By Ashley Campbell