According to the journal Obesity, pregnant women can safely limit their weight gain with diet and exercise interventions, the results of a group of trials by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) show. Many overweight and obese women gain too much weight during pregnancy, further ratcheting up the already increased risk of serious complications for themselves and their babies like childhood obesity or diabetes. According to the researchers, this is an important study because it affirms that women can change behaviours to control the amount of weight gained in pregnancy.
However, the reduced weight gain- about four pounds per woman- did not result in fewer obstetrical complications, including caesarean sections, diabetes, hypertension, and preeclampsia, or change the average birth weight of the baby. It could be because, by the time these women are already in the second trimester, it may already be late to change the important outcomes. As per the researchers, to lower the risk of obstetrical complications, they may have to start changing their lifestyle before or immediately after they conceive.
For the study, the team of researchers recruited 1,150 participants, which ran from the second trimester to birth. Each trial offered a varied lifestyle intervention but all aimed to improve diet quality and reduce calories, increase physical activity and incorporate behaviour strategies such as self-monitoring.
Obese and overweight women are a critical group to target because they have higher rates of excess pregnancy weight gain of retaining that weight postpartum. They are also more likely to have children who are obese.