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How can being overweight during pregnancy affect my baby?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Here's a powerful new motivator for moms who've struggled with weight all their lives and pray their kids won't have to: Overweight problems begin in the womb.
 
Pregnant women with too much body fat deliver babies with extra fat, too. And that could set up those bouncy bundles for lifelong struggles with the scale.

So if you're overweight and even thinking "baby," now's the time to slim down -- healthfully, so you and your baby-to-be get all the nutrition you need.

Donna Feldman
Nutrition & Dietetics
It’s inevitable: As the obesity rate climbs, more pregnant women are overweight or obese.  Statistics show that half of pregnant women are overweight or obese.  What’s the effect of excess weight on their babies’ health, and their own?
 
The mother’s health can definitely be impacted.  Excess body weight leads to an increased risk for:
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Preeclampsia
  • Cesarean birth
  • Failure to lose weight after pregnancy
Obesity (BMI>30) creates the most risk for these complications. Consider Cesarean section: In one study, 1/3 of obese women had a Cesarean compared to 1/5 of women with a BMI less than 30. Obese women have more problems with anesthesia, and more post-op complications. 
 
Risks aren’t limited to the mother’s health. Excess weight in pregnancy is linked to more premature birth, congenital abnormalities and stillbirth. And overweight or obese women who gain excess weight during pregnancy may deliver very large infants. Even breastfeeding is affected: Obese women are less likely to successfully nurse their babies. 
 
The best plan for overweight or obese women planning pregnancy is to lose weight before becoming pregnant. And the best way to do that is a lower calorie diet, with lean protein foods at all meals; plenty of plant foods like vegetables, legumes, fruit and whole grains; and increased physical activity. 
 
Once you do become pregnant, maintain your healthy diet and only increase calories gradually to support fetal growth.  Contrary to popular belief (and wishful thinking), pregnancy is not “eating for 2”.  It’s more like eating for 1.1. Normal weight women should gain between 25 and 35 lbs during pregnancy. Overweight or obese women should gain 11-20 lbs.  

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.