Weight Gain a Year After Giving Birth Can Lead to Health Risks

Diabetes and heart issues more likely for women who cannot lose pregnancy weight

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) After having a baby, most women have a lot of things to think about. For some women, even a year after giving birth, one of those things may need to be weight loss.

Although, many women still have some pregnancy pounds to lose three months after giving birth, that weight doesn’t seem to pose a health problem. But according to new research, mothers who carried pregnancy weight one year after giving birth showed signs of possible diabetes or heart troubles.

"Ask your doctor for tips on healthy weight loss after pregnancy."

Researchers led by Dr. Ravi Retnakaran of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto conducted this prospective study of 305 pregnant women.

These researchers assessed the women for diabetes, cardiac factors and weight gain at the start of the study and at three months and 12 months after they gave birth. The researchers also used questionnaires to check things like activity level.

About 75 percent of the women (225 women) lost at least some of the weight that they had gained by one year postpartum and had healthy cholesterol, blood pressure and other tests.

The other women gained weight or did not lose any weight in the year after giving birth. Their tests were not as good, showing a clear risk for diabetes and cardiac disease, the researchers found.

Interestingly, at three months postpartum, signs of diabetes or heart disease were not evident, even among women who did not lose weight. Of the women in the study, 81 percent retained more weight than they had before their pregnancy at the three-month postpartum mark.

The point where things changed seemed to be after three months, but certainly by 12 months, the researchers found.

In that time frame, 74.4 percent of the women lost weight.

The women who did not lose the weight already had blood levels suggestive of possible later heart problems or diabetes. These women's blood pressures tended to be high, and they had higher cholesterol levels than women who had lost weight. Furthermore, the women who had gained weight had low levels of a protein, called adiponectin, in the blood believed to help protect against diabetes and heart disease.

The more weight a woman gained, the lower her levels of insulin sensitivity (her body needed to produce more insulin to keep her blood sugars normal), making her prone to diabetes, the researchers added.

The study found that women who were more physically active, particularly those involved in sports or regular exercise, were those more likely to be close to their pre-pregnancy weight a year after giving birth.

The authors noted that other studies have shown that weight gain at one year postpartum was a strong predictor of the likelihood of being overweight 15 years later, hence the need to help these women lose weight soon after pregnancy.

"This finding helps us advise women about the importance of losing their excess pregnancy weight in the first year after delivery," Dr. Retnakaran said in a press release. "With these results, we can say that failure to lose weight between three and 12 months postpartum will cause blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin action in the body to move in an unhealthy direction."

This study appeared in Diabetes Care on March 25.

The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
March 27, 2014
Last Updated:
March 27, 2014