Based on the findings of a recent study regarding gestational weight gain and childhood obesity, health experts may need to revise long-standing guidelines on how much weight gain is healthy for women during pregnancy. The purpose of the study, published in the April issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, was to examine the relationship between a mother’s pregnancy weight gain and the child’s risk of becoming obese at toddler age.
Women in the study who gained weight in the range established in 1990 by the Institute of Medicine were found to be four times as likely to have a child who was overweight at age 3 as women who gained less than the advised amount. A similar outcome was observed in women who gained more than the amount recommended in the existing guidelines.
Current weight gain recommendations for pregnancy depend a great deal on the mother’s weight before becoming pregnant and are measured in terms of body mass index (BMI). For example, women with “normal” BMIs are encouraged to gain 25–35 pounds, whereas women with higher BMIs have lower weight targets.
In this new study, the researchers found that the offspring of mothers who gained more weight during pregnancy had higher BMI scores in early childhood and also somewhat higher levels of systolic blood pressure. Due to these findings, the researchers concluded that “new recommendations for gestational weight gain may be required in this era of epidemic obesity.”
Until that time, pregnant women—especially those who are overweight prior to pregnancy—are advised to discuss their weight gain goals with their ob-gyns. Gaining too much weight while pregnant can also increase the risk of having a baby that is too large, which can lead to birth complications for both mother and child.