Obesity During Pregnancy Threatens Health of Both Mother and Fetus, March of Dimes Says

March of Dimes
Wednesday, 9 June 2004

The rising obesity rate in the United States is a risk to the health of pregnant women and their babies, the March of Dimes said today.

"Obesity among women of childbearing age is at a crisis level," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, President of the March of Dimes. "We are concerned because it means more women are overweight or obese when they become pregnant, and this can have serious consequences for both mother and baby.''

Obesity among women ages 20 to 29 increased from 7 percent in 1960-62 to 17 percent in 1988-94, according to the March of Dimes. The prevalence of overweight almost doubled during this time period: from 11 percent to 19 percent.

"Pregnant obese women are at an increased risk for pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, cesarean delivery and postpartum infection. At the same time, the fetus is at increased risk for neural tube defects, birth trauma, and late fetal death,'' said Laura Riley, M.D., Director of Obstetrics & Gynecology Infectious Disease at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and Assistant Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Pathology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Riley also is the chair of the Committee on Obstetric Practice for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

These remarks were made today at the bi-annual luncheon of the March of Dimes National Communications Advisory Council entitled, "Weight Matters: Obesity in Pregnancy.''

Marion Nestle, Ph.D., M.P.H., Director of Public Health Initiatives for the Steinhardt School of Education and Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, New York University, and author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, also spoke at the luncheon, which was moderated by Gretchen Carlson, co-host of the CBS-TV "Saturday Early Show."

The March of Dimes has been in the forefront of promoting good nutrition for women of childbearing age. In 2002, the March of Dimes Task Force on Nutrition and Optimal Human Development issued a report called "Nutrition Today Matters Tomorrow.'' The report recommended that women monitor their body weight and take corrective action as needed during the entire reproductive cycle; gain an appropriate amount of weight during pregnancy; and continue to be active during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

The March of Dimes recommended weight gain guidelines for pregnant women are:

  • If you are normal weight prior to pregnancy: gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy.

  • If you are overweight prior to pregnancy: gain 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy.

  • If you are underweight prior to pregnancy: gain 28 to 40 pounds during pregnancy (depending on your pre-pregnancy weight).

  • If you have a multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets or more): See your health care provider. You will need to gain more weight during pregnancy depending on the number of babies you are carrying.

In 2003, the March of Dimes launched a $75 million, five-year national campaign to address the increasing rate of premature birth. The campaign's goals are to increase awareness of the growing problem and to decrease the rate of premature birth. In 2001, more than 476,000 babies -- or nearly 12 percent -- were born too soon. In an effort to highlight the severity of the problem, the March of Dimes will hold its second annual Prematurity Awareness Day on November 16, 2004.

For more information, or to contact March of Dimes, see their website at: www.marchofdimes.com

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