Pregnancy & Obesity

The board-certified maternal fetal medicine specialist at Hattiesburg Clinic provides complete perinatology care for women with all types of pregnancy complications, including obesity.

Pregnancy & Obesity Overview

Obesity can be a contributing factor to a high-risk pregnancy. While some weight gain is expected during pregnancy, it is important for pregnant women to maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is determined by a person’s BMI before pregnancy. It is important to know that there are ways to help ensure a healthy pregnancy if a mother-to-be is considered obese.

At Hattiesburg Clinic, we offer the full spectrum of prenatal, delivery and postpartum care for women with high-risk pregnancies.

The Impact of BMI on Pregnancy

BMI, or Body Mass Index, is a number calculated from height and weight, and is used to determine whether a person is underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese. If the BMI is 30.0 or higher before pregnancy, a woman is considered to be obese. An obese person has an excess amount of body fat. About one in three women (36 percent) in the U.S. are obese, according to March of Dimes.

Understanding the Risks for Infants

Obesity comes with increased risks for the baby during pregnancy. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) cites the following risks:

  • Birth Defects: Babies born to obese mothers are at an increased risk of having birth defects, such as heart defects and neural tube defects (spina bifida).
  • Ultrasound Issues: Higher than normal body fat can make it more difficult to see certain problems with the baby’s anatomy on an ultrasound.
  • Macrosomia: This refers to a larger than normal baby which can increase the risk of birth injury to the baby and the need for a cesarean delivery.
  • Preterm Delivery: Complications associated with obesity may cause early delivery of the baby. A preterm infant is at risk for health problems, including breathing problems, eating problems and developmental and learning difficulties later in life.
  • Stillbirth: The higher the mother’s BMI, the higher the risk of stillbirth.

Understanding the Risks for the Mother

Pregnancy and obesity also carry with it increased health risks for the mother during pregnancy. The following are such risks:

  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure that begins during the second half of pregnancy is known as gestational hypertension or preeclampsia and can lead to serious complications.
  • Preeclampsia: A serious illness for both the woman and her baby. The kidneys and liver may fail, and in rare cases, stroke can occur. In severe cases, it can be fatal for mom and baby.
  • High blood glucose (sugar) level: Also known as gestational diabetes, this raises the risk of having a very large baby, stillbirth and a cesarean delivery.

The Importance of Safe Exercise

Exercising is encouraged during pregnancy; however, this is not the time to undertake an intense workout regimen. A pregnant woman should ease into a safe exercise routine. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends 30 minutes of exercise, five to seven days a week. Women who are obese and working to maintain or lose weight should consult with their provider about easy low-impact exercise like walking, biking, swimming, Pilates, yoga or water aerobics. Women may start with exercise 10-15 minutes per day.

Eating Healthy

Maintaining a proper diet is important when expecting. It is also important to avoid overeating. An additional 300 calories each day is all that is required during pregnancy. Below are a few tips to eating healthy during pregnancy:

  • Make it a goal to eat breakfast. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests trying fortified ready-to-eat or cooked breakfast cereals with fruit. Fortified cereals have added nutrients, like iron and calcium. In the case of feeling sick, start with 100 percent whole-grain toast, but eat more food later in the morning.
  • Eat foods with fiber, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans.
  • Choose healthy snacks like low-fat or fat-free yogurt with fruit or whole-grain crackers with fat-free or low-fat cheese, but keep it to one snack a day.
  • Avoid soft cheeses and lunch meats because these foods may contain bacteria that can hurt the baby.
  • Limit caffeine consumption.
  • Avoid alcohol.

Any woman who is pregnant or considering getting pregnant should see a health care provider to identify what is best for her based on her medical status and body type. If the pregnancy is planned, a preconception checkup is recommended to learn ways to eat healthy and be physically active. It may also be helpful to lose weight before getting pregnant.

Contact Our Team Today

For information on our maternal fetal medicine services, including other ways to manage obesity during pregnancy or to set up a preconception checkup, contact Hattiesburg Clinic today for a referral.

Maternal Fetal Medicine
Hattiesburg, MS
Maternal-Fetal Medicine
Hattiesburg Clinic - 28th Place
421 S. 28th Ave.
Ste. 120
Hattiesburg, MS 39401
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Monday - Friday
8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
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