The scale can be a daunting instrument. Sometimes, it tells you what you like to hear. Other times, it doesn’t. For expectant mothers, it gets even more complicated.
Weight gain during pregnancy is good, but too much can be unhealthy. The recommended amount of weight gain during pregnancy is 25 to 35 pounds, says David Amsbury, DO, an obstetrician/gynecologist with Trinity Health.
However, birth data from the 2015 National Vital Statistics System says that 48 percent of women are above the recommended levels of gestational weight gain. (Additionally, 21 percent were below the recommended levels.)
“Obesity and pregnancy don’t mesh very well,” Amsbury says. But while it doesn’t go together, it is very common.
In fact, a recent[JCF1] study in the British Medical Journal states that a child’s risk of major congenital malformations during the first year of life increases with a mother’s weight, from 5 percent higher in women who are overweight to 37 percent in women with the most severe obesity.
Body Mass Index, a formula calculating the amount of body fat a person has based on their height and weight, defines someone with a BMI of 25 to 30 as being overweight; 30 or higher is obese.
Obesity during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of issues such as:
- GESTATIONAL DIABETES: Diabetes that develops during pregnancy, which can affect your health or cause complications such as early birth or excessive birth weight.
- PREECLAMPSIA: Characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, often the kidneys and liver; potentially life-threatening.
- INCREASED RISK OF INFECTIONS in the urinary tract and postpartum
- OVERDUE PREGNANCY: Pregnancy beyond the expected due date.
- LABOR PROBLEMS
- C-SECTIONS: Increased change of cesarean sections as well as C-section complications, such as wound infections.
- PREGNANCY LOSS: increased risk of miscarriage during the first term of pregnancy.
An infant born to an obese mother can also be affected. According to Amsbury, the child can suffer neural tube defects, including spina bifida, when the spine doesn’t form properly around the spinal cord, and anencephaly, when the baby is born without parts of the brain or skull.
Amsbury discourages dieting or vigorously watching your weight if you are pregnant. Portion control is not a good idea, he says, because an increase in calories is needed for the baby. While it is important to monitor weight during pregnancy, baing militant about diet is not a good thing.
“You shouldn’t eat less when you’re pregnant,”. Amsbury advises. “If you are hungry, you need to eat.”
“There is the cliché: ‘You are what you eat,’”Amsbury says. “What you eat is what you are feeding the child.” This is especially true during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, when the diet contributes to the development of the fetus. Development can be disrupted if there is a deficiency in the diet.
Another recommendation for a healthy weight is exercise. If you exercised before becoming pregnant, good – keep it up, Amsbury says. If you didn’t exercise before, pregnancy is not the time to start a rigorous program (like CrossFit), he says. It is best to try exercise, but nothing that is high intensity. Think walks and prenatal yoga.
Not yet pregnant, but thinking about it? If you’re overweight, it’s a good idea to drop a few pounds before you get pregnant, and work some exercise into your routine, Amsbury says. You want to be in the best shape possible once you conceive.
Trinity Health’s team of obstetricians/gynecologists is on hand to help care for women and their children during pregnancy, and during and after childbirth. David Amsbury, DO, Heather Bedell MD, Tim Bedell, MD, and Jennifer Johnson, MD, have offices at Health Center-Medical Arts and can be reached at 857-7397. David Billings, MD, Jessie Fauntleroy, MD, Margaret Nordell, MD, and Carol Schaffner, MD, have offices at Health Center-Town & Country and can be reached at 857-7394.