New Perspective on Pregnancy, Weight Gain, and Obesity

Despite growing evidence about the impact of obesity on the health of both mother and child, there’s been a near total lack of guidance on pregnancy, weight gain, and obesity — until now. Today in Obesity, researchers are publishing data from McGee-Womens Hospital that provides new perspective on the subject. The study is the first to provide reference values for pregnancy weight gain in women with class 2 (BMI 35-39.9) and class 3 (BMI ≥40) obesity. Class 3 obesity is often referred to as severe obesity.

Sharon Herring, an expert in women’s health and obesity from the Obesity Society and Temple University, commented on these findings:

These new data are an important first step in determining the amount of weight gain (or loss) that is appropriate for women who enter pregnancy with obesity – data which are sorely needed by obstetric providers to better serve their patients

Current guidance for weight gain in pregnancy provides no specific recommendations whatsoever for women with obesity, citing a lack of data on outcomes. Lead author Jennifer Hutcheon said:

Research shows that pregnant women with obesity are at increased risk of pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes mellitus, hypertension, preeclampsia, cesarean delivery and postpartum weight retention. Similarly, children born to pregnant women with obesity face higher risks of prematurity, stillbirth, congenital anomalies, macrosomia with possible birth injury and childhood obesity.

Monitoring weight gain during pregnancy is key for optimal outcomes, and this is the first time we’ve had a glimpse of reference points for women with severe obesity. With these data, we are a step closer to developing a more comprehensive understanding of safe and healthy levels of weight gain for women with different classes of obesity during pregnancy.

Opening the way to better guidance for women with obesity who are pregnant is a great step forward.

Click here for the new study in Obesity. Click here for current guidance from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Pregnancy, photograph © Billtacular / flickr

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