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Health & Pregnancy

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Pregnancy Weight Gain, Big Babies Linked

Gaining 40 Pounds or More Doubles Risk of Having a Big Baby, Which Increases Health Risks, Study Shows

Pregnancy Weight Gain & Big Babies: Study Results continued...

Other results suggest that excess weight gain -- whether or not a woman has gestational diabetes -- boosts the risk of having a heavy baby.

  • While 16.5% of women with normal glucose who gained more than 40 pounds had a heavy baby, only 9.3% of those who had normal glucose levels who gained less than 40 pounds had a heavy baby.
  • While 29.3% of women with gestational diabetes who gained more than 40 pounds had big babies, just 13.5% of those with gestational diabetes who gained 40 pounds or less did.

"Gestational diabetes puts the baby in an overfed state," Hillier says. "When a mother gains too much weight, even if she has normal glucose levels, the baby is overfed in a similar way."

Big babies are also more likely to get stuck during vaginal deliveries, she says, and to be injured.

Pregnancy Weight Gain & Big Babies: Second Opinion

The study results confirm what physicians and researchers have suspected for a long time, says Richard Frieder, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Santa Monica -- UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital in California, who reviewed the study for WebMD.

''It confirms the suspicion that weight gain makes a difference, whether you are diabetic or not," he says.

Among his pregnant patients, he says, misconceptions about the ideal weight gain during pregnancy are plentiful. "Many women think they need to gain a large amount to have a healthy baby," he says. In general, he advises patients to aim for a gain of 25 to 35 pounds if they are normal weight before getting pregnant.

"Most of the weight gain should come in the second half of pregnancy," he adds.

Ideally, he tells women, aim for a gain of just five to seven pounds in the first 20 weeks, then about 20 to 30 in the remaining weeks.

Pregnancy Weight Gain: Advice?

Recommendations issued by the federal Institute of Medicine in 1990, which are now being re-examined, advise weight gain amounts based on pre-pregnancy weights:

  • For women with a low body mass index or BMI, below 19.8, a gain of 28 to 40 pounds
  • For women with a normal BMI of 19.8 to 26.0, a gain of 25 to 35 pounds
  • For women with a high BMI, above 26, a gain of 15 to 25 pounds.

A report on the results of the re-examination of the recommendations is expected by June 2009.

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