New study tips the scale in favor of weight loss for obese pregnant women

Though some women may use pregnancy as an excuse to indulge a little, some health experts caution that obese pregnant women should be more mindful of their eating habits and perhaps actually strive to lose some extra pounds.

The new study, published by Australian resesearchers in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, examined the results of four clinical trials that included 537 obese pregnant women. The study participants were randomly assigned to either a control group or a dietary intervention group that received counseling on healthful eating and calorie tracking. Women in the intervention group gained, on average, 14 fewer pounds than those in the control group. Importantly, limiting their weight gain did not cause harm to these women or to their babies.

Currently, the Institute of Medicine recommends that obese women gain no more than 11 to 20 pounds during pregnancy, which is significantly less than the 25- to 35-pound gain recommended for normal-weight women. However, the latest research now suggests that obese women should strive to maintain their weight, or even shed some pounds, since modest weight loss is not associated with any adverse health effects in the mother or the baby.

In fact, Dr. Raul Artal, head of obstetrics, gynecology, and women s health at St. Louis University School of Medicine, who has also conducted research on the topic, found that weight loss during an obese woman s pregnancy may actually reduce the risk of delivering a larger-than-normal newborn, while avoiding any adverse impacts on fetal growth. Further, these women may also reduce their risk of pregnancy-associated adverse events such as gestational diabetes and hypertension.

As ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava notes, It s been known for many years that obese pregnant women should gain less weight than their normal-weight counterparts, but now we know that these women can lose a modest amount of weight and still maintain a healthy pregnancy. She adds, That s great news, considering that many obese pregnant women are afraid to lose weight for fear that it will harm their developing baby.