Mothers who lose weight between pregnancies through dieting could be putting their babies at risk as well as themselves, medical experts have warned. But women who gain in weight after giving birth also put their next child at risk, according to a report published in the British Medical Journal.
Effects of weight change can include premature birth, greater risk of stillbirth and high blood pressure. Women should therefore try to maintain a healthy and as consistent as possible weight before, during and after pregnancy, the report says.
The report's Irish-based authors, Jennifer Walsh, a specialist registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology at Coombe Women's Hospital in Dublin, and Deirdre Murphy, the professor of obstetrics at Trinity College, University of Dublin, and Coombe Women's Hospital, warn against women's current obsession with weight in the light of the present celebrity culture. "Women of reproductive age are bombarded with messages about diet, weight, and body image," they say.
"There is growing concern on the one hand about an epidemic of obesity, and on the other about a culture that promotes 'size zero' as desirable, irrespective of a woman's natural build. Pregnancy is one of the most nutritionally demanding periods of a woman's life, with an adequate supply of nutrients essential to support foetal wellbeing and growth."
The report goes on: "With at least half of all pregnancies unplanned, women need to be aware of the implications of their weight for pregnancy, birth and the health of their babies.
It acknowledges that some advice on weight can be confusing: "[The] potential to provide women with conflicting information about weight, weight gain, and weight loss extends to pregnancy and birth outcomes."
The authors cite two studies which show the effects of weight gain and weight loss. A Swedish study followed 207,534 women from 1992 to 2001 to examine the link between changes in body mass index (BMI) and the impact on a baby and mother's health, assessing the women from the start of their first pregnancy to the start of their second. It found that increasing BMI by just one or two units led to "significantly increased rates" of pre-eclampsia, linked to high blood pressure in pregnancy; increased rates of diabetes in the mother and raised risk of a baby being born with a high birth weight.
The risk of these complications was almost double, and an even higher weight gain increased the risk. Gaining weight equivalent to more than three BMI units "significantly increased the rate of term stillbirth, independent of obesity related diseases", the experts say.
Source - Independent