Medically reviewed by
Dr. Monica Ploetzke
McLeod Women’s Care Clarendon
Weight gain – within limits — during pregnancy is considered normal. If a woman is overweight or obese BEFORE becoming pregnant, she affects the chances of conceiving and delivering a healthy baby.
“New research indicates that your weight before pregnancy is linked to infant mortality or potential lifelong problems for the baby, such as diabetes,” says McLeod OB/GYN Dr. Monica Ploetzke. “Since half the pregnancies in this country are unplanned, women should make an ongoing effort to control their weight, even if they haven’t planned a pregnancy. We also know that obese women have more difficulty becoming pregnant in the first place.”
OVERWEIGHT vs. OBESE
Terms, such as overweight and obese refer to specific Body Mass Index (BMI) measurements. BMI is a calculation involving your weight and height. A “healthy” BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. The “overweight” range goes from 25 to 29.9. A person with a BMI over 30 would be considered “obese. To find your BMI, click here.
THE PROBLEMS OBESITY BRINGS YOU
In addition to causing problems getting pregnant (especially with their first baby), obesity is associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common cause of infertility.
The heavier you are when starting pregnancy, the less weight you should gain while pregnant. The US Institute of Medicine says that if you fall into the “healthy” BMI range, a weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds is normal. If you are “overweight,” a weight gain of 15 to 25 pounds is normal. But if you have a BMI over 30, you should only gain 11 to 20 pounds. (Check with your OB/GYN for their recommendations, as well).
An obese woman is twice as likely as a woman of healthy weight to have a miscarriage. Overweight women should expect a longer labor than females of normal weight. Longer labor also increases the chances that a woman will need a cesarean section.
THE PROBLEMS YOUR OBESITY BRINGS YOUR BABY
In addition to the danger of miscarriage, pregnant obese women put their babies at risk for:
The further into the “overweight/obese” category a woman’s weight falls, the greater the risk to the baby, which can potentially equal to the risk of smoking to a pregnant woman’s baby.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If your BMI places you in the “overweight” or heavier category, plan a pre-pregnancy visit to your OB/GYN. And since most pregnancies are unplanned, this visit could be scheduled any time soon.
Talk to your OB/GYN about your weight and suggestions for controlling it before you are pregnant. Losing weight will make your life better and improve your chances of a healthy baby.
Find an OB/GYN near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Society of Reproductive Medicine, Institute of Medicine, International Federation of Gynecology & Obstetrics, Obesity Journal, Pregnancy.org, Univ. of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists