Study’s author concerned that new guidelines for pregnant obese women don’t go far enough

Written by yvonnethornton on June 2nd, 2009

You may have read the headlines last week that The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is changing its guidelines for obese pregnant women. Instead of recommending that women who are obese gain at least 15 pounds during pregnancy, the IOM now recommends a weight gain of 11 to 20 pounds.

It’s a start. But, as the lead researcher of a new study of obese women, pregnancy and weight gain, I’m concerned that obese women are being told to gain any weight.

My study, which is being published today in the Journal of the National Medical Association, found that obese pregnant women who followed a well-balanced diet and gained little or no weight had maternal-fetal outcomes that were equal to or better than those who gained substantial weight.

As a specialist in high-risk pregnancies who has delivered more than 5,500 babies over a 35-year career and supervised the delivery of 12,000 more, I wasn’t surprised by the findings of our study. I know that those extra pounds mean extra risks for both mother and baby. Obesity greatly increases the chance of developing complications in pregnancy such as preeclampsia, stillbirth, and blood clots, among others.

Twenty-three of the more than 200 obese women in our study lost weight. The average weight gained was just 11 pounds. And yet, these women and their babies were at least as healthy as those who put on substantial pounds. There were fewer babies weighing 10 pounds or more, fewer cesareans, and the mothers were less likely to develop gestational diabetes.

You can read more about the study, here.

So, if you’re carrying significant extra weight, forget the old adage about eating for two. Believe it or not, for a pregnant woman of normal weight, only an additional 300 calories per day is needed during her pregnancy – the equivalent to a quart of skimmed milk per day.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH


5 Comments so far ↓

  1. As someone who writes frequently about pregnancy (I have an article forthcoming in Fit Pregnancy and I used to be a contributing writer for Pregnancy Magazine) and is pregnant myself, I find this information fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing it here. I am hoping I can also find your original scientific study on-line?

  2. Such an important topic with the populace as a whole getting heavier and heavier.

  3. Sonia says:

    I thank you so much for coming to share your story at CHP this afternoon. You have definitely re-inspired me to allow myself that I can do anything I put my mind to.

  4. Kimberly Eriksen-Bermudez says:

    My husband and I are planning on getting pregnant in the fall/winter of this year. I am currently trying to eat healthier, exercise and lose weight prior to getting pregnant. I am an obese woman and my doctor advised I should try to gain no weight during my pregnancy. I’m curious, is there anywhere I can find out what these women in your study were eating, food recommendations, etc? Thanks!

  5. yvonnethornton says:

    Hi, Kimberly:

    Thanks for stopping by. We all know about the four/five major food groups. Pregnant women should eat from those basic food groups each day. The difference between a non-pregnant woman and a pregnant woman’s diet is only 300 calories!! Yep—only 100-300 calories per day. Yet, pregnant women are programmed to overeat. If you eat from the major food groups, a keep your diet balanced with about 30 minutes of exercise, a quart of skimmed milk per day with 2 quarts of water per day, you should be fine. Take care!

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