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I Am Pregnant And Overweight. How Does It Affect My Baby?

5 min read

It is quite likely that your being overweight will not have any effect on your baby. However, being overweight, even when you are not pregnant, puts you at risk of several health problems. Irrespective of the fact that you can still have a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby, being overweight does put you at a higher risk for various complications not only during pregnancy but also during labor, birth and post-partum period. Be aware that, potential pregnancy and childbirth complications can happen in any pregnancy.
Pregnant when overweight
Not only will your practitioner find it difficult to determine the size and position of the child with all those extra abdominal paddings, but also it will also likely make harder for you to feel those first kicks.

How Much Is The Recommended Weight Gain During Pregnancy?

How much weight should be gained during pregnancy is depends upon your BMI when you get pregnant.
BMI (Body Mass Index) determines to which category of the weight (healthy normal weight, overweight or obesity) you belong. The BMI is based on your weight and height. You can find your weight category easily with a BMI calculator.

  1. When the BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, the woman falls under ‘normal’ weight category
  2. When the BMI is 25 to 29.9, the woman falls under ‘overweight’ category
  3. When the BMI is over 30, the woman falls under ‘obese’ category
  4. When the BMI is over 40, the woman falls under ‘extreme obese’ category
Recommended Weight Gain For Each Category Are-

Please note that these are the recommended weight gain for single pregnancy. The reading will change if you are having multiple pregnancies.

  1. Normal weight women can gain 12 kg to 16 kg during pregnancy
  2. Overweight women can gain 7 kg to 12 kg during pregnancy
  3. Obese women can gain 5kg to 9 kg during pregnancy
  4. Extreme obese women should gain only below 5 kg during pregnancy

Which Pregnancy Complications Are Associated With Being Overweight?

The complications that affect mother and child when the mother is over weight are:

  • Infections: Obese women are found to be at increased risk of infections such as urinary tract infections and post-partum infections (irrespective of whether the delivery is through a C-section or has undergone a vaginal birth). Endometritis is also a possibility
  • Less likely to have VBAC: Obese women are likely to have a lower success rate when it comes to a vaginal birth after a C- section
  • Risky caesarean: Cesarean is found to be riskier for an overweight woman. An overweight woman, who undergoes cesarean has elevated possibilities of anesthesia problems, wound problems, infections, and severe bleeding than normal weight woman
  • Obstructive sleep apnea: OSA is a sleeping disorder occur when the breathing stops suddenly in the time of sleeping. The chances of OSA is increased with obesity. OSA is associated with reduced fetal growth in later pregnancy
  • Gestational diabetes: Gestational diabetes is the raised blood sugar levels which develop during the pregnancy period. It has a short term or long term effect not only on your health but also your baby’s. The possibilities of gestational diabetes are more among heavier women
  • Venous thromboembolism: Pregnancy makes the blood more likely to clot. This is body’s mechanism to prevent heavy loss of blood during delivery. Venous thromboembolism is a dangerous condition in which a blood clot is formed inside the blood vessel and gets break off and travel through the blood stream and got stuck to organs like lungs, brain, and heart which can cause a heart attack or stroke. Obese women possess more risk to develop venous thromboembolism. Read more about blood clots during pregnancy here
  • Pre-eclampsia: Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication that occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The woman, otherwise has normal blood pressure, develops high blood pressure, kidney problems leading to proteinuria (too much protein in her urine) and fluid retention causing swelling of the face, hands and feet. The chances of pre-eclampsia are increased considerably with increase in weight of a pregnant woman. Having a small baby is sometimes associated with this situation
  • Overdue pregnancy: The chances of continuation of pregnancy beyond the expected due date is increased with the women who are overweight
  • Labor complications: Some of the labor problems associated with women who are obese are:
    • Induction of labor
    • Long labor
    • Higher chances of requiring birth interventions like episiotomy, assisted birth or a complicated c-section birth etc.
    • Shoulder dystocia, a condition in which the shoulder of the baby can’t pass through the birth canal after the head has already come out
  • Macrosomia: It is a condition when the birth weight of a newborn is much more than the average birth weight of babies. Some of the causes of this condition tally with the complications that arise due to being overweight during pregnancy such as Gestational diabetes and going past due date. A child born big has a risk of future heart d iseases and obesity
  • Pregnancy loss: Miscarriage and still births are common among woman who are overweight

However, there is still a very good chance that you will have a normal and a healthy pregnancy without any complication bothering you.
Overweight and pregnant

Can I Diet To Lose Weight During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy is absolutely a wrong time to follow a weight loss diet. The more chances are that the dieting can harm your baby. This is because sometimes diet can leave you low on the vital nutrients which may affect the fetal development and can put additional demands on your body.
It is not wise to try to lose weight or try to maintain the same weight throughout pregnancy.

How To Lead A Healthy Pregnancy When I Am Over Weight?

If you choose a healthy life style and take some precautionary measures you can lead a healthy pregnancy even if you are overweight. In most cases during the first trimester of pregnancy, nausea and vomiting will diminish your appetite which causes you to lose some calories.
Some of the measures that can be taken to lessen the impact of obesity during pregnancy are:

  • Frequent prenatal visits: For an overweight woman, a more frequent prenatal visit is required to monitor baby’s growth and mother’s health. Extra test and extra scans are required for an overweight woman. Ensure that you are regular and do not miss them
  • Eating a healthy diet: Eating wisely will help you to lose weight without depriving the baby her most needed calories as you have extra reserves of calories in stored fats. Seek the help of a nutritionist to plan your pregnancy meals. Choosing low GI food (food that takes longer for your body to digest) as glucose is released more slowly to the blood stream and drinking plenty of water is also recommended
  • Exercising regularly: If you are not onto regular exercises prior to pregnancy, never attempt vigorous exercise once you are pregnant. Exercising moderately (a brisk walk) for thirty minutes a day is enough to lessen the impact of obesity and diminishing the chances of giving birth to a large baby. Read more on exercising during pregnancy here
  • Supplements: The quantity of the Intake of vitamin supplement, folic acid may be increased a bit when you are overweight. Obviously, this is decided by your practitioner
  • Weight gain guidelines: Strictly follow the weight gain guidelines with the help of your doctor

What Can I Do For A Healthy Labor And Delivery When I Am Overweight?

Being overweight increases the chances of a long labor. Weight also affects the efficiency of contractions. This results in prolonged labor. To minimize the problems during labor you should:

  • Exercise regularly to make your body ready for birth
  • Attend antenatal class. There you will get the explanation of how to position yourself during labor to quicker the labor and minimize the pain
  • Consider having a Doula (trained and experienced professional who provides constant physical, emotional and informative support to the mother prior to, during and just after birth) to attend your baby’s birth. A doula can help you to stay mobile during labor, provides you breathing and relaxation techniques, selecting comfortable positions to minimize the pain

Don’t worry too much thinking of your plus size during pregnancy. Many of the overweight women find it difficult to get pregnant. Now that you have passed that bridge, a little care can assure you a happy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

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