Gaining too much weight is a common pregnancy worry. As cravings creep up and it becomes harder to get around, maintaining a healthy weight until delivery day can be a daunting task for many women.
But according to a new study, putting on too many pregnancy pounds may actually "program" the baby, in the womb, to gain extra weight in childhood. In fact, the children of women who gained more than — or even as much as — the recommended amount of weight were four times as likely to be overweight at age 3 than those of women who gained less weight.
Researchers looked at information from 1,044 mother/kid pairs to assess the mother's weight gain during pregnancy and the child's weight gain at 3 years old. They used the standard pregnancy weight-gain guidelines from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and body mass index (BMI) calculations that estimate body fat based on height and weight measurements.
The current recommendations for pregnancy weight gain are:
- 28 to 40 pounds for those starting out underweight
- 25 to 35 pounds for women starting their pregnancy at a normal weight
- 15 to 25 pounds for those starting out overweight
Based on these weight-gain guidelines, more than half of the women in the study gained too much weight, 35% gained the recommended amount, and 14% didn’t gain enough weight. Meanwhile, 9% of the children studied were considered overweight at age 3 and 17% were at risk of becoming overweight. And kids whose mothers gained more weight during pregnancy also had slightly higher blood pressure, a leading risk factor for obesity.
The researchers say pregnancy weight-gain recommendations may need to be re-evaluated given the current obesity epidemic in the United States.
What This Means to You
Pregnancy is not a good time to start a diet. But it can be a great time to start eating healthy food and getting regular, low-impact exercise like yoga, swimming, and walking. Make sure to talk to your health care provider before starting any pregnancy-exercise regimen, and ask about the recommended weight gain guidelines that are right for you.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2007
Source: Emily Oken, MD, MPH; Elsie M. Taveras, MD, MPH; Ken P. Kleinman, ScD; Janet W. Rich-Edwards, ScD; Matthew W. Gillman, MD, SM. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, April 2007.