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Health & Pregnancy

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Pregnancy Weight Gain: New Guidelines

How Much Weight Should Women Gain During Pregnancy? Maybe Less Than You Think

Overdoing Pregnancy Weight Gain

Gaining too much weight during pregnancy may be risky for the mother and the baby.

"The risk for the baby is being born too large, which can result in birth injury for the baby or may result in a cesarean section for the mother," Rasmussen says. "The risks for the mother of gaining beyond the guidelines are risk for cesarean section or risk for excessive weight retention postpartum."

The new guidelines don't advise any women to lose weight while pregnant.

"Pregnancy isn't a time when you should be losing weight," Rasmussen says. "Some women do, but the targets that we've set, on the basis of the data that we have, don't have anybody losing weight while they're pregnant."

During pregnancy, "women need to gain weight, but they don't need to gain an unlimited amount of weight. It is really hard to lose it afterward," Rasmussen says.

Linda Barbour, MD, MSPH, a professor of medicine and obstetrics-gynecology at the University of Colorado at Denver, disagrees with the idea that all women need to gain weight during pregnancy.

Barbour says she is "disappointed" that the IOM's new guidelines don't reflect recent data that suggest not gaining any weight during pregnancy may be OK for obese women, particularly those who are severely obese.

"There's been a lot of data suggesting that obese women really don't have to gain any weight to have a baby that is normally grown," Barbour says.

Eating for Two?

Talking with patients about weight and pregnancy can be difficult, says Melissa Goist, MD, clinical assistant professor in the obstetrics-gynecology department of the Ohio State University Medical Center.

Goist says many people aren't aware that there are limits on healthy weight gain during pregnancy.

"I think people still feel like pregnancy is fair game," Goist says. "You only need 300 extra calories per day to actually maintain a pregnancy."

So if you think eating for two means doubling your calories, forget it.

"If you think about the normal diet of maybe 1,800-2,000 calories, depending on the size of the person, 300 extra calories is a sixth of that. So that's barely like eating anything," Goist says.

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