Overweight and Pregnant: what you need to know

Being overweight during pregnancy can cause complications for you and your baby. The more overweight you are, the more likely you are to have pregnancy complications. But there are things you can do before and during pregnancy to help you have a healthy baby.

Being overweight is based on your pre-pregnancy body mass index (also called BMI). Pre-pregnancy means your BMI before you get pregnant.

Understanding your BMI

Your BMI (Body Mass Index) is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is in a healthy range. For pregnant women your BMI calculation will be based on your weight before pregnancy.

  • Less than 18.5 = underweight
  • 18.5 to 24.9 = healthy weight
  • 25 to 29.9 = overweight
  • 30 to 39.9 = obese
  • 40 = severely obese

The risks of being overweight and pregnant 

If you have a high BMI (over 25) before pregnancy or in early pregnancy, this can affect your health and how your baby develops. The higher your BMI the higher the risk.

These risks include:

  • high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia
  • thrombosis (blood clots)
  • gestational diabetes (diabetes in pregnancy)
  • premature birth  (where the baby is born before they are fully developed)
  • a longer labour
  • emergency caesarean section
  • heavy bleeding after birth.

High BMI and risks to baby

Risks for your baby that are linked with a high BMI include:

  • miscarriage
  • premature birth (where the baby is born before they are fully developed)
  • stillbirth
  • baby having a high birth weight
  • obesity and diabetes in their later life.

What can you do to improve your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby?

Before pregnancy, get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy. Your health care provider can help you find ways to eat healthy and be physically active to help you lose weight before you get pregnant. Losing weight before pregnancy is good for both you and your baby. If you’re thinking about weight-loss surgery, talk to your provider about your options and how long to wait after the surgery before you get pregnant.

RELATED: Best excercises for labor and childbirth (VIDEO) 

During pregnancy, do these things to help keep you and your baby healthy:

  • Get early and regular prenatal care. Prenatal care is medical care you get during pregnancy. Go to every prenatal care checkup, even if you’re feeling fine. Your provider gives you prenatal tests, like a glucose screening test for diabetes and ultrasound to get a picture of your baby in the womb.
  • Talk to your provider about how much weight to gain during pregnancy. If you’re overweight, you want to gain about 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy. If you’re obese, your target range is 11 to 20 pounds.
  • Eat healthy foods. Talk to your provider or a nutritionist to help you plan your meals. Check out choosemyplate.gov from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It can help you make a healthy eating plan based on your age, weight, height and physical activity. It also has a special section just for pregnant women.
  • Don’t diet. Some diets can reduce the nutrients your baby needs to grow and develop. Don’t try to stay at the same weight or lose weight during pregnancy.
  • Do something active every day. Talk to your provider about activities that are safe for you.

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