One of the most important women’s health issues is probably being overweight when they get pregnant. Being overweight during pregnancy comes with a host of challenges. Compared with women with a healthy pre-pregnancy weight, women with obesity are at increased risk of pregnancy complications. Are you wondering how does being overweight affects pregnancy?
Well, being overweight during pregnancy increases the risk of almost all pregnancy complications. Babies born to obese mothers are found to have an increased risk of developing obesity and metabolic disorders in childhood itself. If not, they are still at an increased risk for being overweight and contracting type II diabetes later in their life.
It is always recommended to attain an ideal weight before pregnancy and to maintain a healthy weight gain throughout the gestation period. This is very important to lead a healthy pregnancy. And yet many women find themselves pregnant when weighing scale points a little too much to the right.
In this article, we discuss 10 potential risks of being overweight during pregnancy.
Normal Weight Gain During Pregnancy
The weight gain rate during pregnancy is an important factor that determines how healthy the pregnancy is progressing. It also influences the mother’s and baby’s long-term health.
300 healthy calories will do this job. This will help with gaining normal and right weight during pregnancy. According to the source, a pregnant woman should gain about 1 to 3 Kgs during the first trimester (slow weight gain) and ½ kg a week during the rest of the pregnancy (this weight gain rate changes in multiple pregnancies).
According to this source, the amount of weight you should gain is determined by your body mass index (BMI) before pregnancy.
- For women who are underweight before pregnancy (BMI of less than 18.5): This group of women should gain between 12.5 and 18 kilograms during pregnancy
- For women who are of healthy normal weight before pregnancy (BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9): Ideal weight gain for this group of women during pregnancy is 11.5 to 16 kilograms
- For women who are overweight before pregnancy (BMI of between 25 and 29.9): This group of women should restrict their weight gain between 7 and 11.5 kilograms during pregnancy
- For women who are obese before pregnancy (BMI greater than 30): This is a high-risk group and they should restrict the weight gain between 5 and 9 kilograms during pregnancy
What Causes Excessive Weight Gain During Pregnancy?
The two major factors that contribute to being overweight during pregnancy are wrong food and a lack of physical activity. However, some medications (such as certain antidepressants or anticonvulsants) and some diseases (examples are hypothyroidism or polycystic ovary syndrome) can also contribute to make you gain a lot of weight during pregnancy. You could become overweight.
The following factors also can cause excessive weight gain during pregnancy.
1. Increase in calorie intake
It is true that during pregnancy you need some extra calories. However, it’s not necessary to follow the misnomer ”eat for two” literally, as grandma says. This saying only suggests that a pregnant woman should be able meet increased nutrient demand.
However, many women start to increase their food intake as soon as they find out they are pregnant. Some women tend to eat food high in fat and sugar. This can lead to considerable weight gain right from the beginning of the pregnancy.
Thus, the weight that they are supposed to gain over the first trimester will be achieved in the first month itself. This can lead to excessive weight gain and its consequences over the course of pregnancy
2. Lack of sleep can make you overweight during pregnancy
Many studies have proven the connection between decreased sleep duration and poor sleep quality, and excess weight gain. During sleep, many metabolic activities happen which potentially enhance the energy levels for the next day’s activities.
Sleep loss can bring about significant metabolic and endocrine alterations. These changes could favor an increase in calorie intake and decreased energy expenditure and ultimately lead to weight gain.
Many hormonal and physical reasons (like pain and aches, stress, and strains) impede sleep during pregnancy. Poor sleep during pregnancy can, thus, end up in making you overweight during pregnancy
3. Stress can be a cause of excessive weight gain
According to a study, stress, either physical and psychological, can increase the risk of unhealthy weight gain. Stress makes people overeat. Pregnancy is the time women experience stress (even though the severity varies). While short-term stress may cause no harm, persisting or chronic stress can contribute to your being overweight pregnancy.
Stress stimulates the adrenal glands and a hormone called cortisol will be released. Cortisol is the hormone that can potentially control energy balance and hunger urges. High levels of cortisol in the blood, thus, ramp up the appetite resulting in overeating. Overeating equals overweight.
Related Reading: 11 Reasons You Might Be Losing Weight During Pregnancy
Is Excessive Weight Gain During Pregnancy Retained After Delivery?
According to studies, excessive weight gain during pregnancy can also increase the possibility of postpartum weight retention. It is found that at least 4 to 6 kg of the excess weight gained during pregnancy will be retained even 6 months after delivery.
Another concerning issue is that the additional weight retained months after delivery can continue to remain for decades after pregnancy. This could significantly increase the likelihood of acquiring obesity in the future.
10 Potential Pregnancy Complications If You Are Overweight And Pregnant
Women experiencing overweight during pregnancy are at higher risk of developing an array of maternal and fetal complications. Also, the risks heighten with the increasing severity of obesity.
1. Being overweight increases the risk of miscarriage
Studies have proved that being overweight during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage during the first trimester. Similarly, recurrent miscarriage is also found more commonly among overweight women. It is also found that the risk of miscarriage in overweight women is 29% higher than for women with a healthy weight.
2. Higher incidence of congenital defects
A developing fetus can also be subjected to the ill effects of the mother being overweight during pregnancy. According to studies, being overweight during pregnancy increases the risk of neural tube defects in babies.
Also, it is found that that the risk of congenital heart defect increases by 15% if the mother is overweight.
3. Increased discomfort
Even though pregnancy is a special time in a woman’s life, it cannot be counted as a comfortable phase. It is said that, even though temporary, pregnancy comes with a package of aches and pains and many other unforeseen issues.
Excess weight gain can contribute to or aggravate everything from joint pain and backaches to leg and calf cramps. It also aggravates fatigue and contributes to heartburn. It increases the risk of varicose veins and hemorrhoids. Thus, being overweight during pregnancy could aggravate the pains and aches.
Related Reading: 11 Benefits Of Walking During Pregnancy
Being overweight during pregnancy increases the risk of Macrosomia, a condition in which the fetus larger for its gestational age. A newborn with an excessively high birth weight can bring about many complications during labor and delivery. Like,
- Significantly increased duration of labor
- Increased risk of birth injury and birth trauma
- Increased risk of emergency C section
- Increased risk of postpartum hemorrhage
- Increased risk of the baby developing obesity in their later life
- Increased risk of perineal tears increases 1.5-fold to 2-fold including third and fourth-degree tear
5. Increased risk of gestational hypertension
According to many studies being overweight during pregnancy is one of the very important risk factors for developing gestational hypertension. If you are overweight, your heart has to work harder to pump blood through your body this effort puts extra strain on your arteries.
To make matters worse, during pregnancy the blood volume increases to 50%. This also increases the strain in blood vessels. This, along with overweight, increases the risk of gestational diabetes.
6. Increased risk of gestational diabetes
The more overweight during pregnancy, you are, the more resistant your muscle and tissue cells become to insulin hormone produced by the body. This substantially increases the risk of developing gestational diabetes.
7. Being overweight during pregnancy poses the risk for labor and birth complications
Overweight mothers are more likely in need of birth intervention. Their risk of caesareans and chance of birth complications like shoulder dystocia is quite high.
8. Medical complications
Being overweight during pregnancy can bring about the following medical complications:
- Problems with managing pain during labor and after birth
- It might be more difficult to get mother’s body and medical equipment into the proper position if the mother is overweight
- Increased risk of postpartum bleeding
- Longer wound healing time in case of C section
- Increased risk of postpartum depression
- Increased rate of anesthesia-related morbidity
- Increased chances of epidural failure
9. Less accurate ultrasound results
An ultrasound is an inevitable part of your prenatal check-up. Being overweight during pregnancy can make it difficult for the practitioner to see the baby clearly during an ultrasound. Monitoring baby’s heart beat during labor may also be more difficult. This means overweight pregnant women may have longer exams and possibly more ultrasounds.
Related Reading: 18 Foods To Eat To Increase Fetal Weight During Pregnancy
This could contribute to less accurate ultrasound results. The practitioner may even sometimes fails to diagnose issues that necessitate treatments.
Studies show that being overweight during pregnancy can increase the risk of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia during pregnancy increases the risk of:
- Liver and kidney problems
- Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR),
- Placental abruption
According to this source, besides the top 9 potential pregnancy issues explained above, being overweight during pregnancy can also increase the risk of:
- Maternal death
- Sleep apnea
It is also found that maternal obesity and Down syndrome are mutually connected. Being overweight during pregnancy increases the risk of giving birth to a baby with down syndrome.
Being overweight can create problems during pregnancy, labor, and delivery and also during the postpartum period. The more overweight you are, there is more probability to contract pregnancy complications. Being active, eating nutritious meals, and drinking lots of water will help you with healthy weight gain during pregnancy. Also, you can seek help from your doctor or nutritional expert for managing weight during pregnancy.
It is not safe to try out a weight loss plan during pregnancy. Weight loss supplements and extremely minimizing the food intake during pregnancy will negatively affect the pregnancy.
However, if a woman is extremely overweight during pregnancy the doctor might instruct losing weight to minimize certain pregnancy complications that could adversely affect the pregnancy outcome. However, in this case, one should only lose weight under their doctor’s supervision. The doctor will guide you to lose weight without compromising the healthy progression of pregnancy.
Being overweight during pregnancy shouldn’t delay those early fluttery feelings or hinder feeling baby movements in later pregnancy. No studies have proved an overweight mother will not able to feel or delay to feel baby movements.