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New Moms Are Gaining More Weight Postpartum

Elizabeth Keefe | 2, January 2015


With celebrities, friends, and other new Moms who seem to drop the baby weight so easily after having a baby, it may not be as easy, or as common, as it seems.

According to new research conducted for the Community Child Health Network of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, up to 75% of new Moms had not lost, but rather gained weight by the time their babies were one-year old.

Published in the January 2015 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the study consisted of interviewing 774 new moms at 1, 6, and 12 months postpartum to determine if there was a relationship between postpartum weight gain and obesity. Moms were asked questions regarding lifestyle including exercise, relationship status, sleep, work status, and other factors. Moms were also asked if they breastfeed their baby, and for how long. Results showed that 47.4% of Moms gained between 10 and 20 pounds, and 24.2% had gained 20 pounds or more one year after childbirth.

Prepregnancy BMI and Pregnancy Weight Gain Affects Postpartum Weight

The respondents' gained an average weight of 32 pounds during their pregnancy. Prepregnancy body mass index (BMI) and weight gained during their pregnancy had an effect. In an interview with Health Day, Dr. Loraine Endres, author of the study and assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago, says that the study showed that "pregnancy itself" is linked to an increased risk for obesity among Moms. "The more you gain, the harder it is to lose weight," Endres said. However, leading a healthy lifestyle and breastfeeding can minimize the risk.

In 2009, the Institute of Medicine released new weight gain recommendations for pregnant women based on body mass index, or BMI, before pregnancy. Women with a normal BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 should gain between 25 and 35 pounds, women with a BMI between 25 and 29.5 should only gain between 15 and 25 pounds, and those with a BMI greater than 30 should gain between 11 and 20 pounds. Generally, pregnant women only need to eat an additional 300 calories per day to gain the recommended amount of weight. This equates to a medium sized baked potato with sour cream on top.

Determine how much weight you should gain based on your prepregnancy BMI with our weight gain calculator, and find out if you're on the right track.

In addition, those that had a higher pre-pregnancy BMI and/or gained more than the recommended weight during their pregnancy tended to have a greater chance of becoming obese during the first year postpartum. However, about 33% of Moms who had a normal body mass index before becoming pregnant were also obese at one-year postpartum.

Social and Economic Status Affects Postpartum Weight Gain

Social and economic status also influences postpartum weight gain. Those that gained more than 20 pounds tended to be younger, poorer, less educated, or perhaps receiving public assistance. According to a study reported by Donna Blankinship of the Associated Press in 2011, "Those who spend the least have the lowest intakes of the four recommended nutrients and the highest consumption of saturated fat and added sugar." In addition, the study found that low income Americans want access to better choices, but cost is a major barrier.

Breastfeeding and Exercise Minimizes Postpartum Obesity

Moms who were breastfeeding their baby at 6 months postpartum, and performed moderate exercise, both during and after pregnancy, had a better chance at preventing postpartum weight gain. According to the Mayo Clinic, moderate exercise includes any activity where your heart rate is elevated enough to burn calories, typically when your breathing rate is increased.

Endres feels that the key to helping pregnant and postpartum women is to monitor and educate them more frequently. "From the moment women conceive, as health care providers we need to start talking with them about appropriate weight gain and remaining active."

The results of the study are clear. Prepregnancy BMI, weight gain during pregnancy, breastfeeding, socio-economic status, and lifestyle factors affect postpartum weight gain, or loss, in new mothers. By striving to achieve a healthier living lifestyle including incorporating exercise, choosing healthier foods to eat, and not overeating during pregnancy can help keep the excess weight off during the first year postpartum, and prevent obesity.

Related Articles

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Gaining Too Much Pregnancy Weight?

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

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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Guest Mar 29, 2017 03:20:54 PM ET

I gained a lot after birth. Thanks author.

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