PREGNANCY AND OBESITY
Pregnancy and obesity can be a contributing factor for 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 actually determined by a person’s BMI before pregnancy.
BMI, or Body Mass Index, is a number calculated from height and weight that 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. Obese means that a 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.
Expectantly so, obesity comes with increased risks for the baby during pregnancy. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) cite the following risks:
- Babies born to obese mothers are at an increased risk of having birth defects, such as heart defects and neural tube defects (spina bifida).
- If a mother has too much body fat, it can be more difficult to see certain problems with the baby’s anatomy on an ultrasound.
- Another risk is macrosomia, which means the baby is larger than normal, and might increase the risk of the baby being injured during birth. Macrosomia also raises the risk of cesarean delivery.
- Issues related to a mother’s obesity could mean that the baby will need to be delivered early. Preterm infants are at risk for health problems, including breathing problems, eating problems and developmental and learning difficulties later in life.
- The higher the mother’s BMI, the higher the risk of stillbirth.
Pregnancy and obestity also carries with it increased health risks for the mother during pregnancy. The following are such risks:
- 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 is a serious illness for both a woman and her baby. The kidneys and liver may fail, and in rare cases, stroke can occur. In severe cases, the woman, baby or both may die.
- High blood glucose (sugar) levels during pregnancy, also known as gestational diabetes, raise the risk of having a very large baby and a cesarean delivery. Women who have had gestational diabetes and their children have a higher risk of diabetes in the future.There are ways to help ensure a healthy pregnancy if a mother-to-be is considered obese.
EXERCISING SAFELY AND BRIEFLY
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 that accommodates any workout routine she had before pregnancy. 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 an easy low-impact exercise like walking or water aerobics, starting at only 10 or 15 minutes per day. Biking, swimming, Pilates and yoga are other aerobic activities to consider.
Keeping a proper diet is important when expecting. To avoid pregnancy and obestity, be careful not to overeat. An additional 300 calories each day is all that is required 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. Stay away from soft cheeses and lunch meats because these foods may contain bacteria that can hurt the baby. Also, limit caffeine and 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 to help lose weight before getting pregnant. For information on Maternal Fetal Medicine services in the Pine Belt, including other ways to manage obesity during pregnancy or to set up a preconception checkup, call Hattiesburg Clinic Maternal Fetal Medicine at 601.579.5100.
At Hattiesburg Clinic, we offer the full spectrum of prenatal, delivery, and postpartum care for women with high-risk pregnancies who need these services. In addition, the Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist has access to the tools and services of Hattiesburg Clinic OB-GYN prenatal services, including ultrasound technology and laboratory.