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Health risks during pregnancy for overweight and obese women
Women who have a high BMI are more likely to have high blood pressure and diabetes during pregnancy. They are also more likely to have problems in childbirth. Their babies may also have serious health problems.
If a pregnant woman has high blood pressure, she may need medicine and more frequent checkups in the weeks before delivery. Gestational hypertension usually goes away after the baby is born. High blood pressure during pregnancy can be a sign of preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia and eclampsia
Preeclampsia is a potentially serious illness marked by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. If untreated, it can become a rare, life-threatening condition called eclampsia. Eclampsia can cause seizures and, in some cases, coma. Fortunately, eclampsia is rare in women who receive regular prenatal care.
After delivery, a woman with preeclampsia may need to stay in the hospital longer than usual. This is done for the safety of both her and her baby. To learn more about the risk factors for preeclampsia, see the fact sheet High blood pressure during pregnancy.
Pregnant women should be on the lookout for these warning signs:
Gestational diabetes occurs when a pregnant woman's system has trouble controlling the level of glucose (sugar) in her body. Glucose is the body's main source of fuel. If your glucose levels are too high, serious health problems can arise for you and your baby.
Out of every 100 pregnant women, 3 to 5 develop gestational diabetes. While gestational diabetes usually goes away once the baby is born, over half of the women develop diabetes later in life.
To learn more about risk factors and what to do if you have any, read Gestational diabetes.
An overweight or obese woman is at increased risk of having problems during and after childbirth. The higher her BMI, the more likely she may need a cesarean delivery, which is major surgery. Compared to other pregnant women, very overweight women may have more trouble recovering from a c-section. Also, they may need to stay in the hospital longer.
Babies born to overweight and obese mothers
Babies born to overweight and obese mothers may face their own challenges. These newborns are at increased risk of:
What you can do
To help avoid these health problems, have regular medical checkups before getting pregnant. If you're overweight or obese, your health care provider or a registered dietician can help you lose pounds so that you reach a healthier weight before trying to get pregnant. They will talk with you about exercise and eating healthy.
Check out MyPyramid, an online tool from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It can help you plan a healthy diet based on your age, weight, height and physical activity.
If you are overweight at the start of pregnancy, do NOT start dieting. Fad diets can reduce the nutrients your baby needs for his growth and health. Generally, overweight women should gain between 15-25 pounds during pregnancy. Obese women should gain only 11-20 pounds.
A special section of MyPyramid helps pregnant and breastfeeding moms stay healthy.
Remember: Every woman's body is unique. Always talk to your health care provider about the healthiest steps for you and your baby.