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Too Much Weight Gain in Early Pregnancy Leads to Overweight Babies

Katlyn Joy |29, July 2013


A study out of the University of Alberta has linked expectant mothers' excessive weight gain in early pregnancy to overweight babies. The study looked at 172 pregnant women and found that those who gained excessive amounts of weight in the first half of their pregnancies gave birth to bigger and heavier babies than moms who gained less weight or gained weight later in the pregnancy.

The lead author of the study, Margie Davenport is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation. She states that, "The results underscore the need to educate expectant mothers about the dangers of early weight gain during pregnancy and importance of healthy eating and exercise."

"Expectant mothers and health professionals need to be aware of pregnancy weight-gain guidelines and follow them to build a foundation for a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby."

The pregnant women included in the study were from London, Ontario in the years 1995 to 2011. All were healthy non-smokers with BMI's or body-mass index, of at least 18.5 when between 16 and 20 weeks of pregnancy. A BMI below 18.5 is considered underweight and anything above 25 is considered overweight.

Women in the study were instructed to get aerobic exercise 3 to 4 times a week as basic exercise. They were also given eating guidelines to promote healthy weight gain during pregnancy.

Using the 2009 Institute for Medicine guidelines for pregnancy, maternal weight gain was scored by comparing it with their pre-pregnancy BMI.

Of the women in the study, 52 percent gained excessive weight while pregnant. However, those who gained too much weight in early pregnancy gave birth to babies who were bigger and heavier. In fact, those who gained a lot early on were 2.7 times more likely than the others to have heavier babies. Those babies had 14 percent higher body fat.

Davenport went on to state, "Healthy eating and physical activity when pregnant have long-lasting benefits to mother and child. Infants who are larger at birth tend to become larger children, and that creates a risk for developing into obese and overweight children and adults."

What We Can Learn from this Study

All studies can yield some important insights into health risks and this one seems to warn of the dangers in particular of packing on pounds at the onset of pregnancy. Women actually don't need to see any weight gain in the first trimester and for those suffering from morning sickness and nausea, it can even be a battle to keep weight on during those rough first several weeks.

However, some expectant moms take pregnancy as a literal license to eat for two, or twice as much. That's simply not healthy or necessary. Usually as a woman enters her second trimester, she will experience an increase in appetite and perhaps some of those famous cravings. Once the baby is fully formed, the later weeks of pregnancy is when the pounds start to stack up for the baby. Mom doesn't need to pack on an excessive amount of weight to build a healthy baby.

Also Mom doesn't need to hang up the sneakers and take it easy for nine months either. Many physical activities that she enjoyed pre-pregnancy are still healthy during pregnancy. Of course you should check with your health care provider to be sure, but most exercise is safe for pregnant women although you may need to make allowances for the pregnancy. If you used to jog a couple miles a day, you might go with a walk now instead. If you used to bike through the subdivision, consider a stationary bike for those months when balance is an issue.

Moderation is key. You need exercise and some additional calories in your diet, but if you keep your weight in a healthy range you will have an easier time getting your body back in shape and even more importantly, you will give your baby the best start possible.

Source: ScienceDaily

Katlyn Joy is a mother to 7 children, and a freelance writer. She earned her Master of Arts in Creative Writing and Poetry, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and was previously an adviser to new mothers on breastfeeding through a maternity home program. She currently resides in Colorado with her family.

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carol Aug 8, 2013 07:11:37 PM ET

Article makes a lot of sense! Good work!

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