Pregnancy and Overweight

If you start off pregnancy overweight, you are certainly not alone. About 40% of women in the childbearing years are overweight. You might wonder if being heavy causes complications of pregnancy. Although there are some risks, the extent depends on how overweight you are. In order to take height into account, body mass index, or BMI is used to assess weight. A BMI between 18.5 and 25 is considered ideal. Healthy women in this range have the least problems getting pregnant, and on average, less complicated pregnancies. [ Calculate your BMI].

Women with a BMI over 30 are at greater risk for:

  • Infertility (and fertility treatments are more successful when heavy women lose weight first)
  • Miscarriage
  • Some birth defects (specifically spina bifida; the risk may be offset by taking folic acid 400 micrograms daily before and during early pregnancy)
  • Diabetes of pregnancy
  • Having an overly large baby
  • Needing a cesarean section
  • Blood clots in the legs or lungs
  • Difficulties with assessing the baby's well-being during prenatal care and during labor

This doesn't mean that all overweight women will have problem pregnancies, but complications will be less likely for those who can take some weight off beforehand. If you are overweight and already pregnant, don't despair. Most pregnancies in overweight women go well. Limiting weight gain to about 15 pounds and getting tested for diabetes will help prevent problems.

As you start to plan for having a baby, consider "going into training" to help yourself and your family-to-be. For most women, the keys to losing weight are diet changes and exercise. For an interesting holistic website on weight loss, see Good luck!