There are so many things to get ready before having a baby. You have to buy—and assemble—cribs, strollers and swings. Car seats must be researched and installed. The baby’s room needs to be set up. But there’s one often-overlooked item on your to-do-before-baby list and it’s not nearly as easy as picking out the perfect color for the nursery: Be at a healthy weight before pregnancy.
Going into your pregnancy being overweight is bad for your health, bad for your baby’s health and increases your risk of pregnancy complications. Being overweight also makes it harder to conceive.
So what is your healthy weight? One of the easiest ways to figure that out is to use an online calculator like this one from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to check your body mass index (BMI). If your BMI is 24.9 or higher, that’s considered overweight.
Let’s start by addressing how your weight could affect your pregnancy. Studies link being overweight to a list of potential pregnancy complications, including miscarriage, stillbirth and also birth defects such as spina bifida. For women who are obese (a BMI of 30 or higher), there is also an increased likelihood of elective and emergency C-sections.
Your own health could be put at risk, as well. Overweight pregnant women are more likely to develop problems such as high blood pressure and gestational diabetes.
Lastly, babies whose mothers were overweight during pregnancy are at risk for problems that follow them their whole lives. Research suggests that these babies are being programmed to be overweight themselves, a phenomenon called “obesity imprinting.” According to one study, children were about 29 percent more likely to be obese by age 10 when their mothers had diabetes during pregnancy.
It’s important to note that it’s not just the weight where you start—it’s the weight you gain. If you begin your pregnancy at a healthy weight and then gain more than the recommended 25 to 35 pounds, you could also be setting your baby up for problems. That same study found that babies had 16 percent higher odds of obesity when their mother’s pregnancy weight gain exceeded 40 pounds.
What’s more, if you begin your pregnancy already overweight, doctors suggest gaining only 15 to 25 pounds because an overweight woman already has a greater store of the nutrients her developing baby needs.
For those who want to lose weight before pregnancy, this is no time for shortcuts or fad diets. Make sure you eat lots of fruits, veggies, lean proteins, healthy fats and whole grains. If you’re not used to working out, start with 30-minute walks a few times a week.
And remember, this isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. If you need to lose 40 pounds to get to a healthy BMI, but only manage to lose 20 before conceiving, you’ve lessened the risk of problems for you and your baby. Continue eating healthy during your pregnancy and don’t stop taking those walks.
As we all know, losing weight is never easy—and trying to conceive can be stressful. The good news is, you don’t have to go it alone. Make an appointment to speak with one of our women’s health specialists about your pregnancy concerns today.