who gain too much weight early into their pregnancy are nearly three times as
likely to give birth to bigger and fatter babies, warns a University of Alberta
A study of
172 expectant mothers found that women who gained excessive weight during the
first half of pregnancy gave birth to heavier and longer babies with more body
fat than babies of women who either did not gain as much weight or put it on
later in their pregnancy.
underscore the need to educate expectant mothers about the dangers of early
weight gain during pregnancy and importance of healthy eating and exercise,
said lead author Margie Davenport, an assistant professor in the Faculty of
Physical Education and Recreation.
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 Davenport.
included data from 172 healthy, expectant mothers living in London, Ontario,
between 1995 and 2011. The women were non-smokers with a body mass index of at
least 18.5 when they were between 16 and 20 weeks pregnant. A BMI below 18.5 is
considered too thin; anything above 25 is considered overweight.
in the study were encouraged to follow a basic exercise program of three to
four aerobic workouts a week. They also had access to eating guidelines to
promote healthy weight gain during pregnancy.
weight gain was scored against the 2009 Institute for Medicine guidelines for
pregnancy, comparing data with their pre-pregnancy BMI.
half of the study participants – 52% – gained excessive weight during their
pregnancies; however, women who gained weight during the first half of their
pregnancy were 2.7 times more likely to give birth to bigger, heavier babies.
These babies also had excessive body fat, greater than 14%.
eating and physical activity when pregnant have long-lasting benefits to mother
and child," Davenport said. "Infants who are larger at birth tend to
become larger children, and that creates a risk for developing into obese and
overweight children and adults."
Eating for two
O'Hara knows the dangers of gaining too much weight too quickly, both as a new
mom and a registered dietitian who specialises in obstetrics. One of the key
challenges to ensuring expectant mothers eat properly is overcoming the old
saying "eating for two", she said.
many mothers, eating for two is taken too literally. People feel like they've
been given an allowance to eat whatever they want, and that can lead to weight
gain," said O'Hara, a University of Alberta graduate.
own pregnancy she closely monitored her weight, stayed active and followed the
Canada Food Guide, adding additional servings later in the pregnancy and eating
extra dairy and protein, and limiting caffeine.
active hasn't been a challenge for Carolyn Terry, who is seven months pregnant.
A yoga instructor and University of Alberta graduate in kinesiology, Terry said expectant moms
like her can maintain their physical activity levels, although some
modification may be required.
have to work at your own level and listen to your body," she said.