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Gaining Too Much or Too Little Weight Linked to Obesity in Children

Katlyn Joy |16, April 2014


Just in case you thought you had enough to worry about, a new study finds that pregnant women need to gain the right amount of weight; not too much and not too little, or else risk having children who are obese later.

This is according to a new article published in the Monday, April 14 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The study author, Monique Hedderson, of Kaiser Permanente in Northern California, says, "We need to find ways to help women achieve appropriate weight gain — for her health and the child's — during pregnancy."

Hedderson also quickly negates the adage of "eating for two," stating that, "Sixty percent of women gain too much during pregnancy, and there needs to be more intervention to help women achieve a healthier weight gain during pregnancy."

Perhaps more surprising however, were the results that a woman of normal weight who doesn't gain as much weight as recommended for pregnancy is also at risk for having an overweight or obese child.

Normal weight women who gained more than the recommended amount of weight gave birth to children who were 80 percent more likely to become overweight or obese later in childhood, while women who were normal weight entering pregnancy and didn't gain enough weight were 63 percent more likely to have a child who would later become overweight or obese.

Researchers observed medical records of over 4000 women of a racially diverse group, and looked at the medical records of their offspring between the ages of 2 and 5.

Said researcher Sneha Sridhar, "Gaining either too little or too much weight in pregnancy may permanently affect mechanisms that manage energy balance and metabolism in the offspring, such as appetite control and energy expenditure."

While previous studies have linked women gaining too much weight with developing gestational diabetes and predisposing their children to obesity, and gaining too little to prematurity and failure to thrive, this is the first study to find risks for obesity in gaining too little pregnancy weight.

Another noteworthy finding of the study is that women who were of normal BMI prior to pregnancy who didn't gain weight at an appropriate level were more likely to have children at risk for obesity than women who were above or below normal BMI's before pregnancy.

Women with a BMI of 30 or above are considered obese and have a recommended weight gain of 11 to 20 pounds for pregnancy. Women with a BMI of 25 to 29 are considered overweight and should gain between 15 to 25 pounds. Those who have a normal BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 should gain 25 to 35 pounds. Women with BMI's under 18.5 are underweight and should gain 28 to 40 pounds.

Researchers hope the message gets to pregnant women who are self-conscious about pregnancy weight gain and may be tempted to skimp on pounds gained, that it is detrimental to baby and self to not gain enough.

Obesity rates in US children have tripled recently and currently 17 percent of American kids and teens are obese. Obese children are much more likely to become obese adults, with grave health risks such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension to name a few.

For women who struggle not to gain too much weight while pregnant, some helpful tips:

  • Stay active throughout pregnancy. Walking is a wonderful way to keep physically fit and is affordable and do-able even after baby arrives.
  • Don't let your diet fill up with empty calories, junk food that loads you up on calories and fats but supplies none of the necessary nutrients for good health.
  • Eat small and frequent meals rather than fewer, larger ones. Plan for healthy snacks by grocery shopping wisely. Don't buy items you know are bad for you!

For women who struggle to gain while pregnant:

  • Eat lean proteins throughout the day, preferably along with a good carb or healthy fat.
  • Make those snacks stack up great in the health profile. Have whole milk cheese, eat yogurt that isn't low fat, and enjoy a nice milkshake.
  • Eat filling fiber rich foods.

Related Articles

Not Gaining Weight During Pregnancy

Gaining Too Much Pregnancy Weight?

New Moms Are Gaining More Weight Postpartum

When Your Pregnancy Weight is a Big Deal and When it’s Not

Pregnancy Weight Gain - When Should My OB Be Concerned?


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