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Pregnancy: No Weight Gain for Obese Women?

Study Suggests No Pregnancy Weight Gain for Obese Women Who Get Nutritional Guidance
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Obesity and Pregnancy: Study's Results

Overall, women who gained less than 15 pounds during the pregnancy were more likely to be in the group that kept the food diaries than in the comparison group, and they were less likely to develop gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, undergo cesarean section, or have labor induced.

The women who got personalized nutritional advice and who were asked to keep food diaries gained an average of 11 pounds during their pregnancies. Women in the comparison group gained an average of 31 pounds.

Most of the pregnant women who got personalized nutritional advice and who kept food diaries -- 90 out of 116 women -- followed the study's ground rules. They gained even less weight -- an average of 5 pounds during their pregnancies.

In contrast, women who didn't stick to their personalized eating programs and didn't turn in their food diaries gained more weight -- 31 pounds, on average, which is as much as women in the comparison group.

No side effects were reported during the study, and the babies were born healthy and at a normal weight. "They were not little peanuts," Thornton says.

Obesity and Pregnancy: Don't Obsess

Thornton's study was "very interesting and timely work ... an admirable research effort," Bill Barth Jr., MD, tells WebMD. Barth is an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and chief of the division of maternal-fetal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.

"The study, if it's confirmed by larger studies, suggests that women who have a body mass index over 30 may not need to gain weight at all if in a supervised program," Barth says. "Ideally, this would be covered by a clinical nutritionist or a nurse or a physician with special training and experience in dietary counseling."

Michelle Owens, MD, assistant professor of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Miss., has had many obese patients who've gotten pregnant.

Praising Thornton's study, Owens says people tend to "obsess" about how much weight they should gain during pregnancy.

"But in actuality, those numbers are firmly rooted in basic behavioral and nutritional habits," Owens says. "I think that that needs to be cornerstone, rather than obsessing over the number, because you can still make a significant impact without necessarily meeting a numeric goal."

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