Nearly half of women in the United States gain too much weight during their pregnancies, according to a government study. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can cause health problems in the mother and can lead to a range of problems for the child, the study noted.
Only about a third of pregnant women gain the recommended amount of weight, according to the report. Overweight and obese women were the ones who most commonly exceeded the recommended weight gain. On the other hand, about a fifth of women gain too little weight during their pregnancies.
The report is from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Researchers from the CDC looked at birth data from 2013 for women in the United States who delivered full-term single babies in 43 areas of the United States. The study looked at data on more than 3 million pregnant. Birth certificates now usually include information about the mother's pre-pregnancy weight.
The researchers used weight gain recommendations that were created by the Institute of Medicine. These recommendations are specific to a woman and are based on her body mass index (BMI) from before she was pregnant. Women of normal weight should gain 25 to 35 pounds during their pregnancy. Overweight women should gain 15 to 25 pounds, while obese women should only add 10 to 20. For very thin women, weight gain should be about 30 to 40 pounds.
Women do need to eat extra during a pregnancy, but not that much extra. They only need to eat about 350 to 450 extra calories during the second and third trimester, Andrea Sharma of the CDC, one of the study's authors, said in an interview with the Associated Press.
"It's not about eating twice as much. It's eating twice as healthy," she said.
Gaining too little weight increases the risk that the baby will be born very small. But gaining too much weight can lead to obesity and possibly to dangerous complications during labor and delivery. Too much weight gain also raises the risk the baby will become obese, diabetic, and have other problems later in life.
The report can be read online at Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.