Overweight and obesity during pregnancy
To know if you’re overweight or obese, find out your body mass index (BMI) before you get pregnant. BMI is a calculation based on your weight and height.
- If you’re overweight, your BMI is 25.0 to 29.9 before pregnancy. Two in 3 women (66 percent) of reproductive age (15 to 44 years) in the United States is overweight.
- If you’re obese, your BMI is 30.0 or higher before pregnancy. About 1 in 4 women (25 percent) is obese.
What kinds of pregnancy complications can overweight and obesity cause?
If you’re overweight or obese, you’re more likely than pregnant women at a healthy weight to have certain medical problems during pregnancy. The more overweight you are, the higher your risk for problems. These problems include:
- Infertility, not being able to get pregnant
- Miscarriage, when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy
- Stillbirth, when a baby dies in the womb before birth but after 20 weeks of pregnancy
- High blood pressure and preeclampsia, a form of high blood pressure that only pregnant women get. It can cause serious problems for mom and baby.
- Gestational diabetes, diabetes that some women get during pregnancy
- Complications during labor and birth, including having a really big baby (called large-for-gestational-age) or needing a cesarean section (c-section)
Some of these problems, like preeclampsia, can increase your chances of preterm birth. Preterm birth is birth before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. This is too soon and can cause serious health problems for your baby.
Can overweight and obesity during pregnancy cause problems for your baby?
Most babies of overweight and obese women are born healthy. But overweight and obesity during pregnancy can cause health problems for your baby. These include:
- Birth defects, including neural tube defects (NTDs). NTDs are birth defects of the brain and spine.
- Preterm birth
- Injury, like shoulder dystocia, during birth because the baby is large
- Death after birth
- Being obese during childhood
What can you do before pregnancy to improve your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby?
Get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy. Your health care provider can help you with ways to eat healthy and exercise. This can help you lose weight before you get pregnant.
Check out choosemyplate.gov, an online tool from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It can help you with a healthy eating plan based on your age, weight, height and physical activity.
What can you do during pregnancy to improve your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby?
Here’s what you can do:
- Get early and regular prenatal care. Go to every checkup, even if you’re feeling fine.
- Talk to your provider about how much weight to gain during pregnancy. Overweight women should gain about 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy. Obese women should gain about 11 to 20 pounds during pregnancy. Don’t try to lose weight during pregnancy.
- Don’t diet during pregnancy. Some diets can reduce the nutrients your baby needs for growth and health. Visit the special section of choosemyplate.gov that’s just for pregnant women and breastfeeding moms. Or see a nutritionist to help you plan your meals.
- Exercise on most days. But talk to your provider before you start any exercise program. Walking, swimming, riding a stationary bike or taking pregnancy aerobic or yoga classes are safe forms of exercise for pregnant women.
Does weight-loss surgery reduce your chances of pregnancy complications?
Yes. More than 50,000 women each year in the United States have weight-loss surgery. Women who lose weight after weight-loss surgery are less likely than obese women who haven’t had surgery to have fertility problems. They’re also less likely to have pregnancy complications, like gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. And their babies are less likely to be born too early or with birth defects.
If you have weight-loss surgery, your provider may recommend that you wait at least 1 year after surgery before you try to get pregnant. You may lose a lot of weight really quickly during that year after surgery. If you’re pregnant, this rapid weight loss could cause problems for your baby.
It’s not common, but weight-loss surgery can cause pregnancy complications for some women. If you’ve had weight-loss surgery, tell your surgeon right away if you have pain in your belly during pregnancy. You may need to be checked for blocked intestines or similar problems.
Remember that you don’t have to have weight-loss surgery to lose weight. Healthy eating, exercise and other lifestyle changes can help you lose weight without surgery. Talk to your provider about your pregnancy plans and how weight-loss surgery may affect them.See also: Tracking your weight gain, Preconception health care
When to call your provider
- If you have heavy bleeding or bleeding for more than 24 hours
- If you have fever, chills or severe headaches
- If you have vision problems, like blurriness
- If you have quick weight gain or your legs and face swell