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Can Your Weight Before (and During) Pregnancy Impact Your Child’s Risk of Obesity?

Pregnant woman sitting on bed sorting through baby clothes

It’s no secret that childhood obesity is a growing epidemic, affecting 1 in every 5 children in the U.S. And although environmental factors have a big impact on childhood obesity, there could be another factor at play for your child ― your own weight.

Now a new study shows that both your pre-pregnancy weight and the weight you gain during pregnancy can have an impact on your child’s risk for having obesity.

What researchers found

The study found that children with mothers who had excessive weight gain during pregnancy were 50% more likely to have obesity. Researchers found that for every two pounds of excess weight in pre-pregnancy, women had a 4.5% increased risk of their child developing obesity.

The benefits of breastfeeding weren’t enough to overcome weight-related factors, results showed.

“Often times, an expecting mom’s perception of recommended weight gain is off base,” says Jeffrey Chapa, MD, who was not involved in the study. “It’s important for moms who are overweight at the beginning of pregnancy to know there are different guidelines for how much weight gain is recommended.”

If you’re overweight or have Class III obesity, then those 25 to 35 pounds is probably too much and a 5 to 10 pound weight gain for the whole pregnancy is more appropriate.

A weight gain range of 25 to 35 pounds is traditionally recommended for women with a normal pre-pregnancy weight, or a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9. For women below or above this threshold, the recommendations are different.

Why extra pounds matter

Obesity and excessive weight gain during pregnancy are also associated with complications like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, which can increase the risk of disease for the child.

Dr. Chapa recommends that if you are overweight, before you get pregnant, try to lose weight and work on your dietary habits.

Exercise during pregnancy helps prevent excessive weight gain and high blood pressure. However, it’s best to check with a doctor before starting any new exercise routine while pregnant.

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