New weight guidelines for pregnant women

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - For the first time in 20 years, health officials are releasing new weight guidelines for pregnant women.

It's no secret that weight in America is out of control. New statistics show that 55 percent of women of childbearing age are either overweight or obese - which can lead to serious health problems for both mom and baby.  Certified Nurse Midwife Bonnie Leger with Memorial for Women says, "It's harder on the heart, it's harder on the blood pressure, it's harder on your blood sugar - maintaining it, keeping it stable, keeping you from being diabetic."

Leger says new guidelines for pregnancy weight gain are a must because of changing weight patterns among American women.  "Too little weight can affect the fetus," says Leger, "and too much weight can affect both the fetus and the mother."

For the first time since 1990, health officials with the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council sharply reduced weight gain guidelines for pregnant women. This is something that first-time moms, like 28-year-old Nicole Harrington need to keep in check.  "I ate pretty well before pregnancy," says Nicole, "I never drank soda. I like sugar, I like desserts, but I try to keep it to a minimum."

Women of normal weight (determined by Body Mass Index) should gain from 25-30 pounds during pregnancy. Underweight women can gain more, up to 40 pounds. Overweight women should limit weight gain to 25 pounds. And for obese women - a new range that reflects a heavier population, weight gain should be limited to 11-20 pounds.

Leger says weight gain should occur primarily in the second and third trimesters. She says while many women use the "I'm eating for two" excuse when packing on the pounds, eating habits shouldn't change drastically during pregnancy.  "You only have to eat an extra 200 or 300 calories each day to maintain a healthy pregnancy," says Leger.

With just nine more weeks to go until Nicole and her husband welcome their baby boy into the world, she knows she is on the right track for her and her little one.  "I weighed myself last week and while I'm not gaining a pound a week like I should," says Nicole, "I am healthy and that's good.  I just have about ten more pounds to go."

*Overweight women, or those who gain excessive weight during pregnancy, are at a higher risk for gestational diabetes and a life-threatening blood-pressure problem known as pre-eclampsia. Children whose mothers gained too much weight during pregnancy are more likely to be overweight themselves.

(Copyright 2009 KPLC-TV. All rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)