For some women, getting pregnant is the hardest part of being pregnant. If you experienced trouble getting pregnant, but were eventually able to conceive, the battle isn’t over yet. Being healthy during your pregnancy is probably the best thing you can do for you and your baby, but being healthy covers a lot of different topics. One often overlooked topic that can be hard for some women to talk about is weight. I’m not talking about the baby weight you will gain throughout your pregnancy though; I’m talking about your weight before pregnancy and how it can negatively impact your child.

Being overweight and underweight can often lead to preterm birth, which can put your child at further risk throughout their infancy and the rest of their life. Obese women are two to three times more at risk of experiencing extremely preterm birth, which is usually at about 22 to 27 weeks of gestation. Sven Cnattingius of Karolinska Institute in Stockholm reported in the June 12 issue of JAMA that, “excess weight increased the risk across the range of severities for prematurity but was most pronounced in association with extreme preterm delivery.”

It’s not just overweight women that are at risk of experiencing preterm delivery however, underweight women are also at risk.  The dangers of extreme preterm birth are lower, but the consequences of unhealthy weight are still very much present. The study conducted by Dr. Cnattingius and his team also reports that "high morbidity and mortality among extremely preterm infants, even small absolute differences in risks will have consequences for infant health and survival.”

Obese women are in danger of developing gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and blood clots. All of these could have serious repercussions for your child on top of the risk of preterm birth. Underweight women are in danger of miscarriage, perinatal mortality, and having a child with a low birth weight as well as being at risk of preterm birth. As a mother, what can you do about this? Well, doctors generally recommend that before attempting to become pregnant you address any health concerns that can affect your child if you’re able to. For overweight and underweight women, a diet change could be necessary. With help from your doctor or a dietitian, set up a diet plan that works for you so that you can be as healthy as possible for your baby.

Sources:

  • Cnattingius S, Villamor E, Johansson S, et al. Maternal Obesity and Risk of Preterm Delivery. JAMA. 2013;309(22):2362-2370. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.6295.
  • Bankhead, C. (2013, June 11). Overweight women risk delivering baby early. MedPage Today
  • CDC's pediatric and Pregnancy Nutrition surveillance system. (2011, March 8). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.