Obese and overweight women should get in shape before getting pregnant

Many people want to have a child. And it is not that complicated. Nature itself made us want to leave offspring, but we always want to make sure our babies will be both happy and healthy. Now scientists from the University of Adelaide say that there is a need for overweight and obese women to change their dietary and lifestyle habits before they become pregnant.

Unhealthy body weight in pregnancy can be associated with various complications. Image credit: Industriemuseum, Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Industriekultur via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

This subject may sound more controversial than it actually is. Healthcare professionals have suspected for a long time that pregnant overweight and obese women and their babies are at higher risk of complications. Now scientists analysed data of more than 500 overweight or obese women from three public maternity units in Adelaide, Australia, and investigated potential of the use of common diabetes medication to reduce pregnancy weight gain. This should improve pregnancy outcomes, but previous studies on the matter produced conflicting results. The ultimate goal is to reduce risks for pregnant women who are overweight or obese, therefore, it is worth investigating this subject deeper.

You may not think it is a big problem, but it really is. In the developed world around 50 % of women are already overweight when they decide to get pregnant. A range of complications are associated with unhealthy weight of the mom-to-be, including high infant birth weight, which can even lead to childhood obesity. That is why scientists are interested in a drug called metformin, which is usually used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. It is hypothesized that metformin can reduce the pregnancy weight gain and, in turn, improve the outcomes. Participants of this study were given metformin and some lifestyle and dietary advice.

And the result? Well, disappointment. While metformin did reduce the weekly weight gain, it did not affect the risk of having a baby with birth weight over 4 kg. Risks of high blood pressure, gestational diabetes or birth by caesarean also stayed the same. Professor Jodie Dodd, leader of the project, said: “We’ve now seen a lot of studies showing that dietary and lifestyle advice for pregnant women who are overweight or obese to improve the health of women and their children has very limited benefit. This study supports that outcome. We need to consider dietary and lifestyle interventions prior to women becoming pregnant if we are going to break the cycle of intergenerational obesity”.

Anyway, regardless of the results of the metformin trial, scientists will continue to look for ways to improve pregnancy outcomes for overweight and obese women. However, the major advice remains the same – women should get their life and health in order before getting pregnant.


Source: University of Adelaide


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