Possible changes to pregnancy weight guidelines

A U.S. medical panel is considering changes to guidelines for how much weight a woman should gain during pregnancy.


Before Jennifer Lepine became pregnant, she heard other soon-to-be moms say she should “eat for two.”

But that conflicted with what her doctor told her: Consume only 300 extra calories a day and gain no more than 35 pounds.

The slightly overweight suburban Atlanta woman decided to ignore her friends and watched what she ate after she became pregnant with her first child. The 5-foot-2, 145-pound Lepine gained 35 pounds before her son Bryson was born last year. It took her four months to drop the extra weight through healthy eating and exercise.

An influential U.S. medical panel is considering changes to the medical guidelines for how much weight a woman should gain during pregnancy. It’s acting on the insistence of doctors who say heavy moms are gaining too much weight and the current recommendations do not factor in the country’s obesity epidemic.

Carrying too much weight while pregnant increases the risk of complications for mother and baby, including birth defects, labour and delivery problems, fetal death and delivery of large babies, according to the March of Dimes.

A revision is long overdue, said Dr. Raul Artal of the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

“The reality is for too long we are telling pregnant women to take it easy during pregnancy, be confined and to eat for two,” he said. “This has been one factor in causing the epidemic of overweight and obesity that we see in our country.”

This fall, the Institute of Medicine, a private organization that advises the federal government, is expected to begin the lengthy process of gathering scientific evidence to decide if the guidelines should be changed, said spokeswoman Christine Stencel.

“The decision ultimately should be driven by real data ... but most of us think overall the weight gain recommendations are too high and particularly for women who have high body mass indexes to begin with,” said Dr. Charles Longwood of Yale University School of Medicine.

Under the institute’s 1990 guidelines, those with a “normal” body mass index — a combination of height and weight — were encouraged to gain 25 to 35 pounds. Women with a higher BMI have a lower target — 15 pounds only for the most obese women. Women with a lower BMI should gain more weight during pregnancy — up to 40 pounds.

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