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New Mum’s Fat Dangers 2006-09-28

Posted by clype in Health, Statistics.

Mothers who put on or fail to shift excess weight after having a baby risk problems in later pregnancies, experts have warned.

A few kilogrammes, even among women who are not overweight, can make all the difference, ‘The Lancet Magazine‘ study shows.

Modest weight gain after a first child increased the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and stillbirth during the women’s second pregnancy.

Experts say the findings are worrying — given rising obesity rates; based on current trends, two-thirds of women will be overweight or obese by 2010.

Physicians already know that these women can find it harder to conceive and risk complicated pregnancies.

The Swedish study, involving 150 000 women, found an increase in ‘Body Mass Index’ (BMI) — a measure of obesity — by only one to two “BMI units” was enough to increase the risk of pregnancy complications.

Big risks

An ideal BMI (weight in kilograms divided by height in metres squared) is anything between 18.5 kg/sq.m and 25 kg/sq.m.

Take a woman’s height of 1.650 m and square it to get 2.7225 m2 — for a weight of 63 kg, her BMI is (63 kg/ 2.7225 m2) or 23.14 kg/m2

If she gained 3 kg, her BMI would increase over “one BMI unit” from 23 kg/m2 to 24 kg/m2.

In the study, women who gained one to two “BMI units” over an average of two years between having their first baby and becoming pregnant with their second child increased their risk of pregnancy-related diabetes and high blood pressure by 20/40 per cent.

  • The more weight gained, the higher the risk of complications was.
  • A gain of three or more “BMI units” increased also the risk of the baby being born dead.

Co-author Mr.Eduardo Villamor GP, from ‘The Harvard School of Public Health‘ in Boston, USA, said:

‘Women do not need to become overweight or obese in order to increase their chances of having poor gestational outcomes.

‘A relatively modest increase in weight between pregnancies could lead to serious illnesses.’

Weight loss struggle

But this also means that a small amount of weight loss can make a big difference, particularly among women who are overweight, he said.

Professor Mr.Adam Balem of ‘The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists‘ said:

‘The results are very striking; obesity is an everyday problem we see in clinics.

‘Women do find it harder to lose weight after pregnancy.’

He said factors like whether a woman breastfeeds, the type of labour she has and how long it takes her to become active again afterwards all play a part.

‘And as you get older you have to eat less and exercise more to keep the weight off, which can be hard for busy women with young children.

‘The best advice is for women to try and breastfeed and do your best to maintain a level of fitness and return to your pre-pregnancy weight before embarking on another pregnancy.’

Mr.Gillian Fletcher of ‘The National Childbirth Trust‘ said:

‘This is something we have to take notice of, but we have to be cautious about the messages we give.

‘So many women try to lose weight postnatally and may well go the other way and lose too much.’

She said crash dieting was dangerous, especially for women who were breastfeeding or trying to become pregnant.


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