Nutrition Fights Off Gestational Obesity

Diet is key to preventing significant pregnancy weight gain

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) When you’re pregnant, doctors advise you to keep your weight in check to ensure that mama and baby stay healthy. But often, they don’t tell moms exactly how to manage their weight.

One British study says all a pregnant mom needs to do is watch what she eats.

Researchers looked at 44 trials that included more than 7,000 women and found that a healthy diet led to the greatest weight loss in pregnant moms, compared to exercise and a mixed approach centered on exercise, diet and behavior modification.

"Talk to your OB/GYN about pregnancy diets."

Lead researcher Dr. Shakila Thangarantinam, a clinical lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London, and fellow researchers looked at studies that tracked the impact of physical activity and diet on pregnant women, most of whom were overweight and obese, and their babies.

“Physical activity” included light-intensity resistance training, weight-bearing exercises, and walking for 30 minutes", said Dr. Thangarantinam.

“Dietary interventions” typically included a balanced diet containing carbohydrates, proteins and fats as well as tracking all that’s eaten in a food journal."

They also looked at interventions they categorized as a “mixed approach,” which included behavior modification such as counseling and education.

They found that diet made the most impact in pregnant women: the average weight loss in women who received dietary intervention was 3.84 kg (8.5 pounds). For pregnant women who exercised, it was just 0.7 kg (1.5 pounds), while it totaled 1 kg (2.2 pounds) for the mixed approach.

Dr. Thangarantinam and the authors say that interventions are completely safe and did not affect the baby’s weight. They conclude that dietary and lifestyle interventions are the most effective ways to improve the health of both mother and baby.

All of the interventions reduced a mother’s risk for hypertension during pregnancy (preeclampsia), gestational diabetes, early delivery and intrauterine death, compared to women who received no intervention. However, diet in particular significantly reduced risk for these conditions when compared against other interventions.

They found that there were no differences in the babies’ birth weight among the groups.

In an editorial at the end of the study, experts at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London note there still isn’t enough evidence to support any one type of intervention over another.

Obesity during pregnancy is a growing problem in the U.S. Approximately 1 in 5 pregnant women are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More pregnant women have chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, which may put these women at higher risk of pregnancy-related death, the agency says.

The pregnancy mortality rate has steadily increased to 14.5 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2007, the last year for which data is available, compared to just 7.2 deaths in 1987.

Maternal obesity can also harm the baby. It increases a baby’s risk for development disorders, says a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics. Plus, maternal obesity is a major risk factor for childhood obesity, which can lead to obesity in adulthood and many lifelong obesity-related problems, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, stroke, sleep apnea, and other problems.

This study was published in BMJ, the British Medical Journal, and funded by the National Institute for Health Research, Health Technology Assessment in the UK. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 18, 2012
Last Updated:
July 30, 2012