A comprehensive new study has found 75% of women are not gaining a healthy recommended weight when pregnant.
Gaining too little or too much weight during pregnancy increased the risk of premature births or requiring caesareans, it said, and the prevalence of both obesity and excess gestational weight gain was increasing.
The international research team, led by Monash University researchers, examined more than 5,000 previous studies and analysed pregnancy data from three groups across Asia, the US, and Europe, but noted it was limited by a lack of studies from developing nations.
Other key findings included that 7% of women were underweight and 38% were overweight and obese at the time of pregnancy.
Women who gained more than the recommended weight were a higher risk of having large babies and requiring a caesarean birth. Women who went into a pregnancy underweight and who didn’t put on recommended weight had an 8% risk of having an underweight baby, and an 8% risk of a premature birth.
“Gestational weight gain greater than or less than guideline recommendations … was associated with higher risk of adverse maternal and infant outcomes,” it concluded.
Research team leader Prof Helena Teede said the results emphasised an urgent need for monitoring and support strategies for women before and during pregnancy.
Endorsed guidelines recommended pregnancy gains of 12.5kg to 18kg for underweight women, 11.5kg to 16kg for women of healthy weight, 7kg to 11kg for overweight women, and 5kg to 9kg for obese women.
“Health professionals need to be encouraged and trained in having ‘healthy conversations’ introducing relatively simple effective lifestyle interventions to support women before, during and after pregnancy,” said Teede.
“For health services and policy makers recognition that effective simple health lifestyle interventions are available and now need to be incorporated into routine care to optimise reach and availability for all women.”
Teede said it represented the largest contemporary international snapshot of women’s weight during pregnancy and its impact on their health and that of their baby, and on the healthcare system. It also took into account “our more contemporary population of mothers who are increasingly entering pregnancy at an unhealthy weight and it covers the diversity of race across Europe, US and Asia”.