According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of American women in the age range 22 to 44 are overweight and a third of them are considered obese.
Overweight women are more likely to experience health complications during pregnancy. What makes it all the more alarming is that excess weight can also risk the baby’s chances of a healthy development inside the uterus.
According to Dr. Vivian Dickerson, director of women’s healthcare and programs at Hoag Memorial Hospital in California, “Obesity is a disease, and as with many diseases, there’s a greater chance of problems during pregnancy”.
On your nine-month journey, your doctor will be more concerned by your BMI and not by your weight. But a high BMI score does not necessarily mean you should expect medical issues down the line. Plenty of overweight mothers had smooth pregnancies, so it is a risk, not a certainty.
If you are planning to be or are currently pregnant, knowing what to watch out for is the first step for achieving a smooth sailing pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes is a form of temporary high blood sugar experienced by many women during their pregnancy.
This medical issue normally affects up to 15% of obese women. If this problem is left uncontrolled, gestational diabetes can cause congenital heart problems and other risks of fetal birth defects. If your doctor says you are at risk for this problem, you have to listen and take preventative measures to stay healthy, not just for your sake but for your unborn child’s as well.
Babies who are born to mothers with gestational diabetes tend to be larger in size and can pose problems during delivery.
According to Bruce D. Rodgers, MD, coauthor of “Your Plus-Size Pregnancy” and director of maternal-fetal medicine at Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, bigger babies can mean bigger vaginal lacerations, episiotomies and an increased risk of cesarean section – all health concerns for moms on post-delivery recovery.
Here are frequently asked questions of plus-size moms that you might be asking yourself too.
Can I go on a weight loss diet?
The answer is no. Your growing baby needs all the nourishment it can get. Instead of cutting down on calories and trying to lose weight, seek your doctor’s help. He or she can refer you to a maternity nutritionist who will help make sure that you eat right without gaining too much weight.
Can I exercise?
Yes, exercising helps with the smooth delivery of your baby. Doctors will recommend you to perform low-intensity activities like swimming, walking, water aerobics or yoga.
Can I take appetite suppressants?
No. There is a reason why you crave food – your baby is literally asking you to feed him or her. Taking diet pills to burn fat or suppress appetite has been linked to birth defects and stillbirths.
Can I conceive after a weight loss surgery?
Maybe. Every woman is different, and in your case, only your doctor can advise you about this. Talk to your doctor to know when you can start planning to have a child. Your odds of developing gestational diabetes and other health complications like preeclampsia are definitely lower, but women usually wait until their weight loss has been stabilized before conceiving.
Another health concern apart from gestational diabetes is preeclampsia. It is a form of high blood pressure that occurs to 8% of all pregnant women. It usually develops at the 20th week of pregnancy but the majority of cases are mild. The odds of preeclampsia to overweight women are quadrupled so you have to be careful with your weight gain during pregnancy.
The signs and symptoms of this disease are edema or fluid retention in the hands and feet, and an increased protein level in the urine. If left untreated, it can be life-threatening both to the mom and the baby. Medication and bed rest usually help address this problem.
If you are overweight, there are no guarantees that you can prevent gestational diabetes and other weight-related conditions during pregnancy. However you can adopt specific habits before and during the earlier stages of being pregnant.
Eat Healthier Meals
Foods rich in fiber and low in fat are generally the preferred diet. If you are already pregnant, never go below your body’s required calories and always mind your portions. Strive for a variety of fruits and vegetables on your plate to make your meals interesting and tasty. If you need some help with your diet, seek a nutritionist’s advice.
Exercising before and during pregnancy reduces your odds of getting gestational diabetes. But if you are already pregnant, aim for a 30-minute low to moderate impact exercises per day.
Lose Weight Before Pregnancy
If you are planning to conceive a baby with your partner, you have to work on losing weight before you get pregnant. Shedding the excess body fat will help you achieve a healthier pregnancy.
Post-delivery recoveries among plus-size moms are usually more taxing as you can imagine. So before you plan to conceive, make sure you try to lose weight to prevent complications during your pregnancy. If you are already pregnant, take the necessary preventative measures to have a safe and happy pregnancy.