According to research completed by Margie Davenport and associates at the University of Alberta warns there may be a connection between excessive weight gain in early pregnancy and offspring obesity. The results of the study were published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Researchers collected data from 172 medical records for healthy pregnant women living in Ontario between 1995 and 2011. All women measured a BMI at or above 18.5 and none of the women reported smoking. BMI was measured between the 16th and 20th week of gestation. The women were advised to exercise between three and four days a week and given access to healthy eating guidelines designed for pregnant women.

Fifty-two percent of the women gained an excessive amount of weight during pregnancy, compared to healthy weight gain guidelines. Women who gained weight during the first half of the pregnancy were nearly three times more likely to give birth to larger or heavier babies. The heavier babies often measured body fat percentages above 14%. Increased birth weight has been directly associated with an increased risk of obesity later in life.

The study underlines the need for nutrition and exercise education in pregnant women, even in cases where women are at a normal body weight at the start of pregnancy. Excessive weight gain can lead to pregnancy complications, in addition to long-term side effects for offspring, as revealed in the study.

Most pregnant women can follow an exercise program throughout pregnancy, even if they did not exercise prior to pregnancy. Modifications to exercise may be needed as the pregnancy progresses, but modifications can be determined as needed during normal pregnancy check-ups.

Davenport suggests additional research be completed to determine the best method of education and intervention to help pregnant women better understand the importance of healthy pregnancy weight gain, exercise during pregnancy and nutritional needs of the pregnant woman. According to Sarah O’Hara, an alumni from the University of Alberta, “For many mothers, eating for two is taken too literally. People feel like they’ve been given an allowance to eat whatever they want, and that can lead to weight gain.”

Source: Davenport, Margie H. Ph.D.; Ruchat, Stephanie-May Ph.D.; Giroux, Isabelle RD, Ph.D.; Sopper, Maggie M. Ph.D.; Mottola, Michelle F. Ph.D., FACSM. Timing of Excessive Pregnancy-Related Weight Gain and Offspring Adiposity at Birth. Obstetrics & Gynecology. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e31829a3b86.