Weighty Questions for Moms-to-Be

11.06.08 Dieters gain more pregnancy weight, while excess pounds for mom fatten baby


Women who are relaxed eaters don't pack on the pregnancy pounds to the same extent as dieters, The New York Times reports. Dieting women are more likely to have excessive weight gain during pregnancy than nondieters, according to a new study in October's Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that most women with a dieting history were more likely to exceed weight gain recommendations, regardless of their prepregnancy weight. On average, the studied women gained 52 percent more than the recommended weight; and more than 63 percent of the women gained what was considered too much weight.

The exception: underweight women. Underweight women who had a history of dieting did not gain enough weight, compared to underweight women who weren't typically restrained eaters. The findings suggest that women with a history of unhealthy eating habits should be offered counseling and extra support during pregnancy.

The Institute of Medicine's recommendations for pregnancy weight gain vary depending on a woman's size: An underweight woman should gain between 28 and 40 pounds; a normal weight woman 25 to 35 pounds; women who are overweight or obese are advised to limit weight gain between 15 and 25 pounds. The IOM is re-examining the guidelines with plans to issue revised recommendations in January.

In a separate study published in this month's issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers found that the more weight a woman gains during pregnancy, the more likely it is that she will have a large baby, posing health risks to both, The New York Times reports. Women who gain more than 40 pounds are twice as likely (19%) to give birth to a heavy baby as those who gain less (11%). Mothers of babies who weigh more than 9 pounds are at greater risk for birth complications, and heavy babies are more likely to be overweight or obese later in life.

But where do pregnancy pounds go, anyway? For a breakdown, click over to our Weight Gains feature to see a list of where it all distributes. Plus, check out Pounds Wise for ways to keep your pregnancy weight gain within reason.

Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor.