Half of U.S. Women Are Overweight Before Becoming Pregnant—Here's Why It's a Problem

Plus, how you can avoid the risks involved. 

Half of Women Are Overweight Pre-Pregnancy Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

You know how important it is to gain weight healthily while pregnant, but ensuring that you're at a healthy weight before you even get pregnant also matters. And unfortunately, a lot of women are not where they should be, weight-wise, before they conceive.

According to a report from the CDC, more women are already overweight going into pregnancy than ever before. In 2014, more than half of U.S. women were overweight or obese at the start of pregnancy. 

"This is the first report to focus on pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) and unfortunately, it doesn't look so great," lead researcher Amy Branum, a statistician with the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, said, according to HealthDay

This particular study includes data from all states except for Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island. While this statistic is alarming, it's also right in line with growing obesity rates nationwide. "It does seem to jibe with what we see among all women in the U.S. population," Branum explained.

The report found that nearly 4 percent of American women were underweight before pregnancy, more than one quarter were overweight, and almost another quarter were clinically obese—just 46 percent of U.S. women fell within the healthy weight range.

Certain demographics play a factor in these numbers: Women over 40 and those who are not college educated have greater rates of obesity, as do American Indian, Alaskan Native and black women. Those who use Medicaid to pay for delivery are also more likely to be obese. On the other hand, women under 20, Asian-American women, those with college degrees and women who pay for their own deliveries are less likely to be overweight.

"The health implications of being overweight or obese are very real for pregnancy," said Siobhan Dolan, M.D.,  a medical adviser to the March of Dimes. 

Women who are overweight or obese are at greater risk for diabetes and high blood pressure, which can both lead to early delivery, the need for a C-section and other complications for infant and mother.

What can you do to avoid the risks involved? See a doctor to assess your health before trying to conceive. Keep in mind that what you eat directly affects your baby, and take the necessary steps to ensure you're as healthy as possible before pregnancy.