Women who gain the recommended number of pounds during pregnancy decrease health risks for themselves and their babies, thereby reducing the likelihood of restricted fetal growth due to poor nutritional intake at one extreme and labor complications due to excess nutritional intake at the other. But how much is recommended?
“In 1986, women were told to gain 26 to 35 pounds,” says Yvonne Thornton, MD, MPH, Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist at Westchester Medical Center, the flagship of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network. “OBs were urging all women to ‘Eat whatever you want!’ regardless of their weight.” But with one-fifth of women these days obese at the start of their pregnancies, this advice lost ground. Despite today’s guidelines recommending women of normal weight to gain 25-35 pounds; overweight women 15-25; and obese women 11-20 pounds, Dr. Thornton’s research has shown that obese pregnant women who follow a well-balanced diet and gain little to no weight have equal and, in some cases, better outcomes than do obese women who gain substantial weight. Dr. Thornton stresses, “It’s not about eating more; it’s about eating well.”
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