Healthy Weight and a Healthy Pregnancy

By: April Eddy, RN, CNS, CDE (APNP), Diabetes Clinical Nurse Specialist for Perinatal Services

Healthy weight can reduce the risk for multiple issues for a women’s health in general, but did you know how your weight can affect the chances of having a healthy pregnancy and baby?

Body Mass Index is a number calculated by comparing height and weight. A normal BMI is 20-25, overweight BMI 25-30, and obesity starts at a BMI of 30. Describing weight in this manner helps healthcare providers address the severity and likelihood of complications resulting from excess weight. It can also help direct goals for weight loss, as often times a weight loss reducing BMI by 1 point can greatly reduce risk for that condition. A BMI of 27 has been associated with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. We know that a weight loss of 7% can greatly lower diabetes risk, so losing 14 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds can greatly lower risk of developing diabetes.

Women whose weight puts them in the obese category are more at risk for many issues during pregnancy including infertility, miscarriage, birth defects, twin pregnancies, gestational diabetes, gestational high blood pressure, urinary tract infections, complicated labor and deliveries, and c-section delivery with difficulty wound healing. These women are also at increased risk for certain conditions prior pregnancy including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and sleep apnea that can further complicate a pregnancy.

Women can also have problems with excess weight gain and retain more weight after giving birth. Women who are overweight and women who are obese do not need to gain as much weight during pregnancy. The Institute of Medicine provides guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy.

Unfortunately, most women do not receive guidance on this topic. It can be difficult for patients and providers to have these conversations. Sometimes women are never aware of pregnancy weight related risks and available resources to help them reduce risk.

There are many programs available to help people with healthy eating and weight loss. Avoid “diets” and fads and find out about healthy eating for you. Take advantage of area programs through your community or work. Ask to see a dietitian or if you have diabetes, a diabetes educator. All area HMO’s have these providers available and all of them also have healthy programs to assist participants with healthy eating and exercise. Many communities offer low cost programs through the local YMCA, city recreation departments, schools and churches. Not for you, work on setting up an individual plan.

Remember to always set goals that measure behavior and are simple, easy to measure progress. A goal of “I will exercise more” is probably not the best…a better goal may be “I will walk 30 minutes a day 4 times per week.” Find support to help you achieve your goal, this may be a spouse or friend who watches your child so you can exercise, or someone who will exercise with you and encourage you to go on those days you would like to skip. Losing weight is not easy but remember the rewards are great and any weight loss is a success.

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