Obesity in pregnancy

How does being obese affect my health?

It’s best to be as healthy as possible before pregnancy. Being healthy includes many different elements – your physical health, emotional wellbeing, spirituality, mental health. Your physical health in particular has a substantial impact on the health of your baby. Being physically healthy includes 3 main components:

  1. Being at a healthy body weight (a BMI between 20 and 25).
  2. Eating a healthy diet (this means a varied diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts. Minimizing intake of red and processed meats, sugar sweetened beverages, and refined grains (things like bakery goods, and most packaged and processed foods).
  3. Getting regular physical activity.

More and more women are entering pregnancy with a BMI over 30; this is the BMI cut-off for obesity and places you at higher risk of developing certain common disorders in pregnancy. Obesity in pregnancy is increasing, due to increased time spent in front of the television and computer, sedentary lifestyle, and poor nutrition.

My pre-pregnancy BMI is higher than 30…what does this mean for my pregnancy?

Having a BMI over 30 when pregnant means that you are at greater risk for medical complications such as cardiac disease, lung disease, gestational hypertension, gestational diabetes and obstructive sleep apnea. You can reduce your risk of having problems by choosing to eat a healthy diet, as recommended by Canada’s Food Guide, and exercising regularly. Risk of neural tube defects other congenital abnormalities is also higher, making folic acid supplementation and appropriate screening even more important. Your second trimester anatomic ultrasound may be conducted slightly later than normal, at 20-22 weeks. Obese pregnant women also have an increased risk of miscarriage, unexplained stillbirth, Caesarean section, and lower success rate of vaginal birth after Caesarean section.

How much weight should I gain while I’m pregnant?

If you start pregnancy with a BMI of 30 or higher it is recommended that you gain around 7 kg (15.4 lb) or less, over the course of your pregnancy.

Should I try to lose weight while I’m pregnant?

Regardless of your BMI, it is recommended that you do not try to lose weight while you are pregnant. One of the most effective things you can do to reduce the risks of pregnancy complications is to be active. You should exercise four times weekly, at a moderate intensity. For example, brisk walking for 25-40 minutes, 3-4 times per week has been shown to improve your blood glucose levels. Use Canada’s Food Guide to help you make good food choices. Even small changes in your diet can make a difference over time.