However, it has been unclear if these links between obesity risk and pregnancy weight gain and birth weight are confounded by genetic factors.
In an attempt to clarify the associations between future obesity risk, birth weight, and weight gain during pregnancy, researchers from the Children’s Hospital Boston and Columbia University teamed together to conduct a population-based study of pregnancy weight gain and birth weight. For this study, obesity researchers analyzed vital statistics birth records from over 500,000 women and over 1 million births. Analysis of the information in these records showed:
A consistent relationship between greater weight gains during pregnancy and greater birth weights
Women who gained more than about 53 lbs during their pregnancy had heavier babies than women who gained only 18-22 lbs.
Gaining more than 53 lbs during pregnancy more than doubled a woman’s chances of giving birth to a baby weighing more than 8 lbs 13 oz.
By using such a large population, the researchers were able to omit factors that might have altered the impact of pregnancy weight gain on birth weight like short or long pregnancy lengths, maternal diabetes, and more. By reducing these potentially interfering factors, these researchers showed that excessive weight gain during pregnancy directly effects birth weight. This is important because
previous research has shown that a large birth weight substantially increases a person’s risk for obesity both as a child and later in life as an adult. In fact, some studies have reported that a birth weight of more than 8 lbs increases a person’s risk for obesity by about 50-70%!
Therefore, it is important to eat healthy and maintain a healthy weight gain during pregnancy.
The following tips from the Weight-Control Information Network might help prevent excessive weight gain during pregnancy:
Consume only about 300 more calories per day than normal during the last 6 months of pregnancy. For normal weight women, this would equal about 1,900 – 2,500 total calories per day
Eat breakfast every day
Be sure to include high fiber foods
Keep healthy snacks handy
Consider cutting back on large amounts of caffeine
Exercise at a moderate intensity on a regular basis.
Keeping weight gain during pregnancy to a healthy level is an important step for reducing childhood and adult obesity.