Pregnancy Weight Gain

There is lots of conflicting information and opinions on how much weight gain should occur during pregnancy. RACHEL MURRAY explains why women should concentrate on having a healthy lifestyle rather than standing on a scales.

Once a woman becomes pregnant, it is known that her lifestyle choices can affect both her own health and the health of her baby, not only during pregnancy but also in the longer term. Maternity hospitals’ focus on weight gain during pregnancy differs. Some only take note of weight at the first antenatal appointment, others take it at every appointment but the emphasis for the woman should be to make healthy lifestyle choices rather than focusing on her weight.

On the increase

Maternal obesity has emerged as one of the great challenges in modern obstetrics as it is becoming increasingly common and is associated with increased maternal and fetal complications. Dr Amy O’Higgins, from the UCD centre of reproduction and Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital explains, “Much of the current evidence on weight gain in pregnancy is based on studies of limited quality and the links between changes in the mother’s weight and the effect on the baby’s weight are weak and poorly understood. Unfortunately, there is little good quality scientific evidence available”.

The risks

However, we do know excessive weight gain during pregnancy carries risks to both mother and baby. According to Dr Jennifer Walsh, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the National Maternity Hospital, “Women whose weight gain during pregnancy is outside the recommended ranges are at increased risk of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy and diabetes. They are more likely to have complications during labour and delivery, and to be delivered by caesarean section.

“Women who gain excessive weight are also more likely to have postpartum weight retention, which makes them more likely to become obese later in life. Postpartum weight retention in itself increases the likelihood of complications in future pregnancies, such as pre-eclampsia, diabetes, hypertension and large for gestational age infants. Weight gain during the interval between pregnancies is associated with complications, whether the women are overweight or not.”

For more information, read our feature on pregnancy weight gain in our latest issue of Maternity and Infant.

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