Ahmedabad, February 2017: In a disturbing trend being witnessed in the city, an increasing number of women are reporting excessive weight gain during pregnancy, a problem that increases the rate of complications such as hypertension, gestational diabetes, premature birth as well as miscarriage.
Doctors and Gynecologists at Columbia Asia Hospitals, Ahmedabad say as compared to 10 years back, more women today are going through ‘overweight pregnancies’, a trend that can be attributed to lifestyle factors such as lack of physical activity, and increasing intake of high calorie junk food.
Some amount of weight gain is considered normal, even desirable during pregnancy as the fetus develops into a full-fledged life form. However, when the weight gain is abnormally high, it can lead to potentially serious complications both for the mother and the baby.
“In recent years we have been witnessing a rise in the number of pregnant women gaining more weight than desirable, particularly in urban centres like Ahmedabad. Almost 30% of pregnant women that we treat and supervise are overweight. In fact, 10-15 % of them fall within the range of obese/morbidly obese. The trend has been accompanied by a general rise in obesity and lack of physical activity among people at large. However, not many women are aware about the potentially serious consequences of gaining excessive weight during pregnancy. There is imminent need to educate women that pregnancy weight gain must be adequate not excessive as it can lead to complications during pregnancy and delivery. Moreover, it can also predispose the baby to greater risk of obesity and diabetes,” says Dr Aarti Vazirani, Consultant, Gynecology, Columbia Asia Hospitals, Ahmedabad.
Being overweight during pregnancy can increase a woman’s risk of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia and miscarriage. It can cause complications during delivery such as shoulder dystocia or the baby’s shoulder getting stuck, premature birth and heavy bleeding during labor. Overweight women are also more likely to have Caesarean births. At the same time, the health threats also increase for the baby.
“Apart from weight-related complications such as difficult pregnancy, high blood pressure, and diabetes, weight gain in mothers can also lead to excessive weight gain in babies. In women who gain more than the recommended weight during pregnancy, babies tend to develop larger than normal. This increases chances of both premature delivery and Caesarean birth. A baby born of an overweight mother also runs a higher risk of himself/herself suffering from obesity and diabetes,” says Dr Vazirani.
There are long term implications too. If you have gained abnormally high weight during pregnancy, you will find it much more difficult to lose it post delivery. This also puts you at an increased risk of retaining more weight during subsequent pregnancies.
With mechanization taking over our lives, more women today are leading sedentary lifestyles at home. Traditional household chores do not require physical exertion any more. On the other hand, at work, jobs involve more of deskwork. Weight gain is therefore a consequence of overall lack of calorie expenditure at home and at work.
“Obese women tend to consume more processed foods that have high caloric value, but low nutritional value. A study says that inspite of the increased weight of the pregnant woman, almost 40% of them are iron deficient (anemic), 5% of them are deficient in folic acid and Vitamin B12 (essential components for baby’s growth). This underlines the need for regulating our diets, and moving from processed and junk foods to nutritional foods,”explains Dr Vazirani.
“You are classified as overweight if your BMI is above 25. In case you are excessively heavy, it is advisable that you lose weight before trying to conceive. This is your best chance of having a healthy pregnancy. It is recommended to seek pre-conception counseling so that your doctor may assess your health parameters and suggest a corrective recourse. In case you have already conceived, you must pay regular ante-natal visits to allow your doctor keep a track of your health parameters including blood pressure and blood sugar levels,” adds Dr Vazirani.
For overweight women who are pregnant, it is advised to stick a very healthy low fat diet and a regular regimen of physical exercise to limit the risk of complications and ensure a smooth pregnancy. While strenuous or rigorous exercise is not recommended during pregnancy, moderate exercise is highly advisable. Walking is considered the best exercise during pregnancy. If you are overweight, you must include atleast 2-3 rounds of walking in your daily regimen. At the same time, you must strictly avoid high calorie diet, especially junk food, and stick to a nutrient rich diet of fruits and vegetables.
So, how much is too much when it comes to weight gain during pregnancy?
- If you were of healthy weight before conception (BMI 18.5 to 25), you must gain in the range of 11 to 15 kg.
- If you were overweight (BMI above 25), your weight gain must stay between 6 to 12 kg
- If you were underweight before conceiving (BMI below 18), you must gain in the range of 12 to 18 kg