Giving birth to a healthy child is every expectant mother’s goal. A new study states that a woman’s prepregnancy weight can influence infant mortality.

The study, published in Obesity (2015; doi: 10.1002/oby.21335), explored associations among prepregnancy weight, weight gain during pregnancy and infant mortality rates. The researchers looked at more than 1.2 million birth records and maternal weight measures prior to conception and during pregnancy. Women were divided into six categories: underweight, normal weight, overweight, grade 1 obesity, grade 2 obesity and grade 3 obesity.

Infant mortality risk was lowest among women whose weight was normal before pregnancy, and the risk increased for each subsequent weight category. Gaining too little or too much weight during pregnancy was also linked with higher rates of infant mortality.

To minimize risk, women should aim to achieve a healthy weight before becoming pregnant, the study authors recommended. They suggested that women refer to the National Academy of Medicine’s recommendations on appropriate gestational weight gain, which can be found at

“Obesity and infant mortality are among the most critical public health issues today,” the researchers explained. “Understanding the effect of obesity and maternal weight gain on infant mortality will broaden the clinical conversation about the benefits of preconception weight loss, inform recommendations for gestation weight gain for important rare outcomes, and aid in the development of structural changes and testable interventions that may improve the survival of U.S. infants.”

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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