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Pregnancy: Too Much, Too Little Weight Gain Adds to Health Risks

2:30

If you’re thinking about becoming pregnant, starting your pregnancy at a normal weight is best for baby and you, according to new study.

The study found that too much or even too little weight, increases an expectant mom's risk for severe illnesses and death. 

"Not only for baby's sake, but also for your own sake, have a healthy diet and get regular exercise before pregnancy," said study lead author Dr. Sarka Lisonkova. She's an assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of British Columbia and the Children's and Women's Health Centre in Vancouver. 

"It's never too late, even if you're already pregnant," Lisonkova said, adding that weight gain during pregnancy can also increase the risk for severe illnesses and even death in expectant mothers.

The study was large, including information on three-quarter of a million women. The average age of the women was 28 years old.

The researchers found that the more a woman weighed, the more likely she was to have a severe illness or to die during pregnancy. Underweight women also had an increased risk for these outcomes. Severe illness included such conditions as eclampsia (convulsions or coma brought on by high blood pressure), sudden kidney failure, sepsis, hemorrhage and respiratory problems.

While the results sound scary, the risk to any one particular woman is low. For instance, the study found that, compared with normal-weight pregnant women, there were about 25 more cases of either severe illness or death for every 10,000 pregnant women if the woman was obese.

"The chance that any one woman dies in pregnancy is about 1 in 6,000 in the United States," said Dr. Aaron Caughey, who chairs the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland

However, what's especially concerning about this study's findings, he said, is that more and more women are entering pregnancy obese or super-obese. With higher levels of obesity, "there's an incredibly high inflammatory state that increases the risk of rare outcomes, like thromboembolism," a blood clot, Caughey said.

He said that underweight women likely had a chronic illness that increased their risk. 

Both Caughey and Lisonkova said that ideally, women should be at a normal weight before getting pregnant. If a woman isn't at her ideal weight, pregnancy is a good time to start focusing on things such as eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, they said. 

Pregnancy can be a "focusing event for affecting behavior change in women," Caughey said, because once pregnant, a woman often focuses on doing what she can to have a healthy baby.

"Pregnancy is a great time to think about diet and exercise, especially because women often drive health behaviors in the family, so there's no time like the present to make healthy changes," he said. 

Lisonkova also emphasized the importance of good prenatal care. "Clinicians can catch signs of potential complications earlier with regular checkups," she said. 

A woman will naturally gain weight while pregnant and that’s as it should be, but if you begin a pregnancy overweight it’s more difficult to keep the weight gain within the normal range. It’s healthier for mom and baby to begin a pregnancy at or close to a normal weight.

The study was published in the November edition of Journal of the American Medical Association.

Story source: Serena Gordon, https://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutrition-information-27/overweight-and-underweight-health-news-516/weighing-too-much-or-too-little-when-pregnant-can-be-risky-728505.html

 

 

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