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Pregnancy Isn't an Excuse to Overeat

WebMD Health News

Jan. 30, 2001 -- If you're pregnant, chances are that a double bacon cheeseburger and triple chocolate shake sure sound good right now. Besides, if you're eating for two, you can tell yourself that you can afford the extra calories. But before you sit down to a big bowl of pasta or reach for a second helping of potatoes, heed a warning from researchers who say that many women head down the path to obesity during pregnancy.

Once the baby arrives, you may not drop the extra weight, especially if you are not breastfeeding. The pounds may become permanent and increase with each passing child and year, putting you at risk for a number of diseases often triggered by obesity, such as diabetes, heart diseases, and high blood pressure.

Researchers from the Cornell University Division of Nutrition in Ithaca, N.Y., and the Research Institute of Bassett Healthcare in Cooperstown, N.Y., studied 577 women from early pregnancy through one year after the birth of their first child. They found that 38 of the women, none of whom was obese in early pregnancy, had become so by the end of pregnancy, based on standard weight recommendations set forth by the Institute of Medicine.

Indeed, the scientists, lead by Christine Olson, PhD, RD, a Cornell professor of nutrition, say that one year after delivery, more than one-quarter of the women in the study were 10 or more pounds heavier than they were at the beginning of their pregnancy.

"We found that excessive gestational weight gain during pregnancy -- more than is recommended by the [standard guidelines], is a likely predicator of obesity postpartum," Olson tells WebMD. She says that women who gain more than the recommended amount are four times more likely to be obese one year after giving birth than mothers who stay within the recommended limits.

Olson believes that the epidemic of obesity in the U.S. is partially due to so many women gaining excessive amounts of weight during pregnancy. Her study showed that 38% of normal-weight women, 67% of overweight women, and 46% of obese women gained more than the recommended amount of weight while they were pregnant.

"Many of the women seen at obesity clinics, when asked when they started gaining weight, say, 'It all started when I started having kids,'" Olson says. "What's going on during childbearing years is contributing to obesity."

Some researchers have even laid blame partially on the Institute of Medicine for raising the recommendations for pregnancy weight gain about six years ago. The standards allow 15 pounds of weight gain during pregnancy if you are already in the obese weight group; 15-25 for those who are overweight; 25-35 for normal weight; and 28-40 for those who are considered thin.

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