Obesity During Pregnancy

Does obesity during pregnancy put me at risk of any health problems?

Obesity during pregnancy puts you at risk of several serious health problems:

How can obesity affect a pregnancy?

Obesity increases the risk of the following problems during pregnancy:

If I am overweight or obese, should I plan to lose weight before getting pregnant?

Losing weight before you get pregnant is the best way to decrease the risk of problems caused by obesity. Losing even a small amount of weight can improve your overall health and pave the way for a healthier pregnancy.

How can I lose weight safely?

To lose weight, you need to use up more calories than you take in. You can do this by getting regular exercise and eating healthy foods. Your obstetrician–gynecologist (ob-gyn) may refer you to a nutritionist to help you plan a healthy diet. Also, the MyPlate website from the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a special section for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Increasing your physical activity is important if you want to lose weight. Aim to be moderately active (for example, biking, brisk walking, and general gardening) for 60 minutes or vigorously active (jogging, swimming laps, or doing heavy yard work) for 30 minutes on most days of the week. You do not have to do this amount all at once. For instance, you can exercise for 20 minutes three times a day.

Are there medications to help me lose weight before getting pregnant?

If you have tried to lose weight through diet changes and exercise and you still have a BMI of 30 or greater or a BMI of at least 27 with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, weight-loss medications may be suggested. These medications should not be taken if you are trying to get pregnant or are already pregnant.

Is there surgery to help me lose weight before getting pregnant?

Bariatric surgery may be an option for people who are very obese or who have major health problems caused by obesity. If you have weight loss surgery, you should delay getting pregnant for 12 to 24 months after surgery, when you will have the most rapid weight loss.

If you have had fertility problems, they may resolve on their own as you rapidly lose the excess weight. It is important to be aware of this because the increase in fertility can lead to an unplanned pregnancy.

Some types of bariatric surgery may affect how the body absorbs medications taken by mouth, including birth control pills. You may need to switch to another form of birth control.

Can I still have a healthy pregnancy if I am obese?

Despite the risks, you can have a healthy pregnancy if you are obese. It takes careful management of your weight, attention to diet and exercise, regular prenatal care to monitor for complications, and special considerations for your labor and delivery.

How do I plan healthy meals during pregnancy?

Finding a balance between eating healthy foods and staying at a healthy weight is important for your health and your fetus’s health. In the second and third trimesters, a pregnant woman needs an average of 300 extra calories a day—about the amount of calories in a glass of skim milk and half of a sandwich. You can get help with planning a healthy diet by talking to a nutrition counselor. Help also can be found at the MyPlate website.

How much should I exercise during pregnancy?

If you have never exercised before, pregnancy is a great time to start. Discuss your exercise plan with your ob-gyn to make sure it is safe. Begin with as little as 5 minutes of exercise a day and add 5 minutes each week. Your goal is to stay active for 30 minutes on most—preferably all—days of the week.

Walking is a good choice if you are new to exercise. Swimming is another good exercise for pregnant women. The water supports your weight so you can avoid injury and muscle strain. It also helps you stay cool. Read Exercise During Pregnancy for more advice.

How will my weight be monitored during pregnancy?

Your weight should be tracked at each prenatal visit. The growth of your fetus also will be checked. If you are gaining less than the recommended guidelines, and if your fetus is growing well, you do not have to increase your weight gain to catch up to the guidelines. If your fetus is not growing well, changes may need to be made to your diet and exercise plan.

How does obesity affect labor and delivery?

Women who are overweight and obese have longer labors than women of normal weight. It can be harder to monitor the fetus during labor. For these reasons, obesity during pregnancy increases the likelihood of having a cesarean birth. If a cesarean birth is needed, the risks of infection, bleeding, and other complications are greater for a woman who is obese than for a woman of normal weight.

How can I manage my weight after my baby is born?

Once you are home with your new baby, stick to your healthy eating and exercise habits to reach a normal weight. Breastfeeding is recommended for the first year of a baby’s life. Not only is breastfeeding the best way to feed your baby, it also may help with postpartum weight loss. Overall, women who breastfeed their babies for at least a few months tend to lose pregnancy weight faster than women who do not breastfeed.

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