TIME Obesity

Obese and Pregnant: An Intervention That Works

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A new study shows comprehensive programs for weight management can help obese women have healthy pregnancies

Obesity during pregnancy is a dangerous mix for both mom and baby. A mother’s obesity during pregnancy is linked to a greater likelihood for gestational diabetes, birth injuries, miscarriage, and a higher rate of C-sections. A child born to an obese mother is at a higher risk of developing obesity down the line, too.

A new study, which is published in the journal Obesity, shows that pregnancy risks can be lowered if women partake in a motivating program to get them on a healthier lifestyle, and gain fewer pounds during pregnancy. The program uses methods that have long been shown to work when it comes to keeping health in check, and if followed, both mom and baby could be safer.

Given that about a third of adult Americans in the U.S. are obese, a significant number of women will be obese during pregnancy. That’s why the Institute of Medicine recommends that obese women gain 11 to 20 pounds during pregnancy compared to normal weight women who are advised to gain 25 to 35.

However, some research suggests that limiting the amount of weight gained for obese women even more can lower the risk for complications. On Thursday results from a study called Healthy Moms showed that if obese women instead just maintain their weight, they are increasing their likelihood for a safe pregnancy.

The study looked at 114 obese women—those with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 and up—and had half of the woman participate in an intensive program that consisted of regular meetings, calorie goal, weigh-ins and food and exercise diaries. The other women met with a dietitian once, and received some information about healthy eating.

The findings showed that women enrolled in the comprehensive program gained 7 pounds less than the women who did not participate in the intensive program. Two weeks after the women delivered, the women undergoing the program were about six pounds lighter than they were at the start of the study, whereas the other group of women were about three pounds heavier. Birth and delivery complications were about the same among the two groups, but a smaller percentage of women in the intervention group had babies that grew too fast in the womb compared to the other women.

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