Until recently, guidelines for pregnancy weight have focused on helping women gain enough to avoid having babies who weigh too little. But that's about to change, according to participants in a recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) workshop on maternal weight gain.
Today as many as one-third of American women who become pregnant are already overweight, says pediatrician Maxine Hayes, M.D., chair of the IOM task force. It's time to issue new guidelines that encourage women to have healthy babies while maintaining their own healthy weight, Hayes adds. "The current recommendations were based on 1980s data, and here we are in 2007," she explains. "Today we have a different picture." The nationwide obesity epidemic is reflected in higher rates of obesity in pregnancy, which raises risk factors for such complications as gestational diabetes and C-sections.
New recommendations will most likely encourage women to achieve a healthy weight before pregnancy. And the upcoming guidelines may be much more specific to women's prepregnancy weight, height, age and ethnicity than the all-purpose guidelines now in use. Doctors also need to spend more time advising women on weight—before, during and after pregnancy, says Hayes. "Nobody wants to think they're overweight," she adds. "But we can't bury our heads in the sand about this."