Too much, too little weight gain during pregnancy poses risks

May 12, 2008 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Too much, too little weight gain during pregnancy poses risks

Women who gain more or less than the recommended amounts of weight during pregnancy are likely to increase the risk of problems for both themselves and their child, according to a new report by the RTI International-University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The report is based on a systematic review of 150 studies that assessed the short- and long-term effects of maternal weight gain on pregnancy, mothers, fetuses, and children.

Among the report's key findings is a strong association between high maternal weight gain and increased fetal growth and infant birth weight, which can contribute to complications during labor if a baby is too big, and can lead to long term health effects for the child. High maternal weight gain also is associated with cesarean delivery and weight retention by mothers after childbirth.

The review also confirmed that gaining too little weight during pregnancy can be a problem. Low maternal weight gain is associated with poor fetal growth, lower birth weight, and the chance of a baby being born prematurely.

The report was prompted by several trends, including an increase in the number of American women who are overweight and obese, as well as the number who gain more weight during pregnancy than amounts laid out in the Institute of Medicine's 1990 recommendations for maternal weight gain. Public health officials also are concerned about an increase in pregnancy complications such as diabetes and cesarean delivery.

The Institute of Medicine is currently reviewing its pregnancy weight guidelines to see if they need to be revised; it expects to issue a report next summer.

How much weight women need to gain during pregnancy depends upon how much she weighed before becoming pregnant. To calculate your pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), click here. The current recommended weight gain guidelines below are associated with the lowest risk for pregnancy and delivery complications. 

Weight Gain Guidelines for Pregnant Women

Pre-Pregnancy BMI less than 20.............................. 28 to 40 lbs. (12.5 to 18 kg)

Pre-Pregnancy BMI between 20 and 27..................25 to 35 lbs. (11.5 to 16 kg)

Pre-Pregnancy BMI over 27..................................... 15 to 25 lbs. (7 to 11.5 kg)

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.