There has long been evidence that women who are overweight or obese when they become pregnant are more likely to have heavier babies, but a new study has actually linked obesity-related gene variants in mothers to higher birth weights. Researchers also found a link between a mother’s genetic vulnerability for high blood sugar and a higher birth weight for her child.
The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in March 2016, looked at data from 30,000 women and focused on the genetic predisposition for blood pressure, blood sugar, and obesity. By focusing on genetic factors, researchers were able to rule out weight variations based on women’s education level, diet, and lifestyle factors. The researchers assigned women “genetic scores” based on the number of genes they carried related to obesity, blood pressure, and blood sugar and found that as a mother’s genetic score for obesity and blood sugar increased, so did their baby’s birth weight.
This new research underscores the importance of beginning a pregnancy at a healthy weight. Larger babies (over 9 pounds, 15 ounces) can cause birth and labor complications and may require a C-section. Being overweight or obese during pregnancy has also been linked to certain complications, including high blood pressure, blood clotting problems, gestational diabetes, and miscarriage.
Healthy Weight Gain during Pregnancy
If you and your partner are planning to have a baby, talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about guidelines for beginning your pregnancy at a healthy weight and gaining a healthy amount of weight throughout the gestation period. It’s important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet throughout the pregnancy. Although you’ve probably heard the expression “eating for two”, pregnant women only need about 300 more healthy calories per day on average than they did before they became pregnant.
Recommended Gestational Weight Gain
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It’s also important to get moderate exercise on a daily basis. Walking and swimming are two activities that most pregnant women can engage in, and your doctor should be able to provide additional recommendations for you.
Pregnant women should make sure they keep all prenatal care appointments with their doctor and have regular blood pressure and blood sugar checks. This will help keep both mother and newborn baby health optimal and reduce the risk of high birth weights and other complications.