Pregnancy can be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of a lifetime; and it can also be uncomfortable for people who are overweight or obese. The American Academy of Family Physicians states that risk of high blood pressure and diabetes is higher for overweight and obese women during pregnancy. Achieving a healthy weight before becoming pregnant is important for the health of the mother and developing baby.
Importance of Healthy Pre-pregnancy Weight
Achieving a healthy weight ideally should take place prior to pregnancy and is important for several reasons. According to the National Institutes of Health, underweight, overweight or obese women have a higher risk for infertility. Once a woman does become pregnant the March of Dimes suggests it’s not safe to lose weight during pregnancy. Women at healthy pre-pregnancy weights typically feel better during their pregnancy, have healthier babies, easier labors, and decreased risk for high blood pressure and diabetes.
Benefits of Exercise And Pre-pregnancy Weight
Diet and exercise are important to help achieve a healthy pre-pregnancy weight. However beginning an exercise program prior to getting pregnant has additional benefits. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends starting an exercise program such as walking before getting pregnant to prevent overdoing it during pregnancy. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests that exercising at least 30 minutes per day most days of the week during pregnancy can reduce back pain, swelling and constipation, reduce the risk for gestational diabetes and increase energy.
Healthy Pre-pregnancy BMIs
Body mass index, or BMI, helps estimate body fat and disease risk; categories of BMI include underweight, normal weight, overweight and obese. The Mayo Foundation for Medical Educational and Research recommends varying ranges of weight gain during pregnancy based on pre-pregnancy weights. Healthy or normal weights are classified as BMIs of 18.5 to 24.9. BMIs 18.5 or less are considered underweight, 25 to 29.9 overweight and 30 or greater obese.
BMI can be calculated using the following formula according to the American Dietetic Association: weight in pounds multiplied by 703; divided by height in inches; divided by height in inches again. For example a woman who is 5-foot-3 inches tall weighing 140 Ibs. would multiply 140 by 703; then divide by 63 inches and divide by 63 inches again resulting in a BMI of 24.8. The American Dietetic Association website provides an adult BMI calculator (See Resources).
Weight Gain During Pregnancy
Appropriate weight gain during pregnancy is dependent on pre-pregnancy weight and is important to help nourish the developing baby. For women at a healthy pre-pregnancy weight, the Mayo Foundation for Medical Educational and Research recommends a weight gain of 25 to 35 Ibs. Underweight women are encouraged to gain between 28 and 40 Ibs., overweight women 15 to 25 Ibs. and obese women 11 to 20 Ibs.