There are countless reasons why obese women should diet and exercise before becoming pregnant. There are many serious and even lift-threatening complications associated with obesity during pregnancy. You have a higher chance of getting gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and hypertension when you are overweight during your pregnancy, so losing weight beforehand will help you have a safer and healthier gestation. Many women know the risks of conceiving while obese, but a new study shows that even labor can be negatively affected.

Overweight or obese women progress through their labor more slowly than women of a normal weight. Specifically, the first part of labor took especially long. This part, called active labor, is the time when the cervix opens fully so that the baby will fit through the birth canal. The time it takes for cervical dilation varies for every woman, but in overweight women, this part of the labor was particularly lengthy. In fact, obese women took almost two hours longer to give birth than women who were of a normal weight in the study.

Aside from the obvious pain and discomfort associated with a longer-than-average birth, lengthy births can be cause for concern and doctors might recommend a cesarean section to make sure the baby makes it out safely, and, for obese women, this surgery is riskier.

It’s difficult to lose weight when you’re pregnant. You are eating for two, so your nutritional choices need to be carefully considered and your weight loss will constantly be offset by your baby’s weight. For that reason, you should speak with your doctor about healthy dieting and exercise before you conceive. If you’re thinking about having a baby, now is the time to get to a healthy weight. Using fad diets won’t do the trick, since it will be very easy to gain the weight back once you’re pregnant. Talk to your doctor about losing weight the healthy way.

Just as alcohol and cigarettes are dangerous for your baby’s development, obesity is the same. Motivate yourself to lose weight before pregnancy by reminding yourself that obesity is as dangerous as alcohol in some ways, and you’d never drink during your pregnancy. Nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, so take advantage of this planning period to get yourself ready and healthy for a happy and worry-free gestation. When you’ve finally lost the weight, you can focus on the excitement of a newborn.

Source: Shayna Norman et al: The Effects of Obesity on First Stage of Labor. Obstetrics and Gynecology Volume 120 Issue 1 pp. 130-135 July 2012