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Prepregnancy Weight Affects Targeted Gain

Overweight Women May Set Target Pregnancy Weight Gain Too High
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WebMD Health News

March 4, 2005 -- Overweight women tend to set their target pregnancy weight gain too high, while underweight women may be setting their targets too low, according to a new study.

Researchers found that overweight and obese women were four times more likely to report target pregnancy weight gain above recommended levels. Meanwhile, underweight women were also more likely to set their target pregnancy weight gain too low.

Women who gain pregnancy-related weight above or below recommended guidelines have a higher risk of pregnancy complications, such as prolonged labor, preterm labor, increased risk of caesarean delivery, diabetes, low or excessive birth weight, or stillbirth.

Researchers say they studied the effects of prepregnancy weight on reported target pregnancy weight gain rather than actual weight gain because a woman's target pregnancy weight gain is potentially modifiable and has been strongly associated with her actual weight gain.

They say the results indicate many women report receiving incorrect advice about appropriate pregnancy weight gain and greater efforts are needed to inform women about recommended levels.

In 1990, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) issued guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy based on a woman's prepregnancy body mass index (BMI, a measure of height in relation to weight). In general, leaner women are advised to gain more pregnancy-related weight, and heavier women are advised to gain less.

Recommended Pregnancy Weight Gain

BMI Before Pregnancy:Recommended Weight Gain:
< 19.8 (low)28-40 pounds
19.8-26.0 (normal)25-35 pounds
26.1-29.0 (high)15-25 pounds
> 29.0 (obese)15 pounds or less

In the study, researchers looked at factors affecting the target pregnancy weight gain reported by nearly 1,500 in the San Francisco Bay-area women.

The results showed that the women's prepregnancy BMI was the strongest predictor of target weight gain.

Women with low or high prepregnancy BMI (underweight and overweight women) were much more likely to report a target weight gain that did not fall within the IOM guidelines compared with women of normal prepregnancy BMI.

For example, 24% of overweight women reported a target weight gain above the guidelines compared with only 4% of normal-weight women. In addition, 51% of underweight women reported a target weight gain below the guidelines versus 10% of normal-weight women.

Other factors associated with people who reported a target weight gain above the IOM guidelines were:

 

  • Younger age
  • Health care provider advice to gain above the guidelines
  • Having previous children

 

Additional factors linked to reporting a low target weight gain included:

 

  • Latina race or ethnicity
  • Low educational status
  • Health care provider advice to gain below guidelines
  • Lack of health care provider advice

 

Researchers say the results show that women's target pregnancy weight gain is strongly influenced by her prepregnancy weight status. But health care providers should also pay closer attention to the IOM guidelines in advising their patients about target pregnancy weight gain based on their BMI.

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