Women who are pregnant are typically lectured about the dangers of drinking alcohol and cigarette smoking but several recent studies suggest that they need to be told about the various dangers that excess weight can pose to themselves and to their unborn children. Doctors are now being urged to use more aggressive counseling about the risks of weight gain to their pregnant patients, particularly those who are currently overweight or obese or those who are increased risk of gaining too much weight.
Women who are in the obese range when they become pregnant are at a dramatically increased risk of having a C-section as their delivery method and are far less likely to breast feed their baby than normal weight mothers. But, the risk continues beyond the pregnancy that study shows, with the babies born to obese mothers at a higher risk of having both a high birth weight and to be at increased risk of continued weight gain into his childhood.
Alison Stuebe, MD, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, studied more than 24,000 mom and daughter pairs to gauge this risk. In that study, it was found that the more the mom weighed before she got pregnant, the more likely her female child was to be overweight or obese later in life. That risk was also likely in mothers who had either gained too little weight or too much weight during her pregnancy.
Weight gain is necessary for the development of the baby and is accounted for by increase in blood volume as well as tissue for the mother as well as the fetus. However, the amount of weight that is required is not nearly as high as some people assume and women who are already obese should be carefully monitored for their own health as well as the current and future health of the child they are carrying. Careful control of the mother’s weight may reduce the risk of a number of serious complications including the risk of premature birth. Babies who are born before the fortieth week of gestation are at dramatically higher risk for complications, including infections and illnesses and pre-term birth is the leading cause of infant death in the United States.
The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children of the 90’s, performed at the University of Bristol looked at nearly four thousand mothers who had given birth 16 years prior. That study showed that women who had gained more than the recommended amount of weight were more likely to be overweight or obese. These women were also more likely to be apple shaped, medically known as central adiposity.
It is important that the women get the proper nutrition but stick to a strict weight gain goal as well as to be counseled about the benefits of breast feeding for their child and for their own weight loss efforts after giving birth.
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