The Many Challenges Obese Pregnant Women Face

What is Obesity?

Obese pregnant women face a unique set of challenges. But, what exactly is obesity? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), obesity is defined as a person having a BMI, or body mass index, of greater than 30.  A person’s BMI is calculated using their height and weight (the exact formula is 703 x [weight in lbs/height in inches2]).  A normal BMI should be between 20 and 24.9, and anything in between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.

There are flaws with this method of defining obesity, however, because it does not take muscle weight into account.  Because muscle weighs more than fat does, a person who is very muscular or fit may still have a BMI in the overweight range, despite being very healthy.  Overall though, BMI is a fairly reliable indicator of a person’s body fat, and is the scale currently used by physicians.

Complications Arising From Obesity

Obese pregnant women are much more likely to develop complications during their pregnancy and delivery, than women who are of normal weight.  Potential complications include:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Macrosomia (large baby)
  • Caesarean delivery
  • Rarely, birth defects and fetal death

According to the CDC,  “children born to obese mothers are twice as likely to be obese and to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Obesity during pregnancy is also associated with greater use of health care services and longer hospital stay” (2010).

Recommended Weight Gain During Pregnancy

Current guidelines suggest that a woman should gain between 25 and 35 pounds through their entire pregnancy.  These guidelines are lower for obese pregnant women, recommending only 12 to 20 pounds of weight gain throughout their pregnancy.

Your doctor will monitor your weight at every visit and can provide guidelines for your particular situation.  It may be beneficial for you to see a nutritionist who specializes in treating pregnant women.  She can help you develop healthy eating habits and a plan to keep you on track with your weight gain.

Remember, a little weight gain is important ““ you shouldn’t deprive yourself of calories or nutrition just to lose weight, especially during pregnancy.  But gaining too much weight can be equally as bad because of the potential for complications and negative outcomes.

Weight Loss Before Pregnancy

It may be hard to hear, but if your doctor recommends that you lose weight before becoming pregnant, you should know that she’s not just being mean.  Her goal is to help you have a healthy and safe pregnancy, delivery and baby.

There are many weight loss programs and plans available, but you should find one that emphasizes healthy eating habits and portion control, not just the quick fix.  For obese pregnant women, Overeaters Anonymous and Weight Watchers both provide great support and education on how to make healthy lifestyle choices.
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