Early pregnancy weight gain means bigger, fatter babies

Weight gain in pregnancy is a normal and necessary part of the process.

But too much weight gain – especially during the first half of pregnancy – can predispose infants to being larger and fatter, according to new research from the University of Alberta.

Timing matters

The study included data on 172 healthy expectant mothers who all had a body mass index of at least 18.5 when they were between 16 and 20 weeks pregnant. The women were encouraged to follow a basic exercise program – three to four aerobic workouts per week – and they had access to healthy eating guidelines for expectant mothers.

Comparing maternal weight gain to guidelines set forth by the Institute for Medicine, more than half of the women in the study gained "excessive" weight during their pregnancies. But women who gained more weight during the first half of pregnancy were 2.7 times more likely to birth bigger babies with more body fat.

"Expectant mothers and health professionals need to be aware of pregnancy weight-gain guidelines and follow them to build a foundation for a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby," said lead author Margie Davenport, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation.

Staying at an appropriate weight during pregnancy is important for the long-term health of both mother and child, Davenport noted, as infants who are larger at birth tend to become bigger children and adults.

Davenport hopes to follow up this research by exploring how early-pregnancy lifestyle and diet interventions can help improve long-term health for both mother and child.

Her study was published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Source: University of Alberta

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