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Mananging pregnancy weight gain for obese women

Weight is generally a bigger concern to women than it is to men, and while it could be more psychological for a majority of women, weight largely affects the health of those of reproductive age. This is particularly true because of the influence weight has on conception, pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes, as well as the health of the mother after delivery.

Studies have shown that women with obesity are often faced with health risks such as infertility, congenital malformations, pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, gestational diabetes and premature births. As such, while many pregnancies are unplanned, it is especially important for women to get a consultation prior to a pregnancy, so as to assess their individual pregnancy risk, and therefore allow for informed decisions and actions that can reduce the risk.

Where obese women become pregnant, it is important that weight gain is closely monitored and managed.  On average, the recommended amount of weight gain from conception to just before birth (gestational weight gain) for an obese woman is 5 – 9.1 kg for a one child pregnancy according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) . This weight recommendation aims to balance the adverse effects of low or high weight gain such as: large or small-for-gestational age infants, preterm births, postpartum weight retention and childhood obesity.

This recommended weight gain for obese women is just a littles less of the average gestational weight gain of a woman of normal weight (8.5 kg), meaning weight management for obese women is not an easy job.

Nutrition and physical activity interventions when combined have been shown to be successful in reducing gestational weight gain. Nutrition counselling early in the pregnancy is therefore advised as it assists women to observe healthy feeding habits and therefore manage their weight gain throughout the pregnancy. In addition, at least 30minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity is recommended throughout the pregnancy, of course following doctor’s clearance and the physical status.

But while physical activity before pregnancy is crucial for healthy weight and well-being, it will not cover the period after pregnancy. Meaning you must exercise during pregnancy.

While any exercise is good, the dose of exercise will greatly influence the result. Meaning the more the exercise, the more the benefits.

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Christine Nderitu

As a licensed Nutritionist and Public Health Practitioner, Christine, helps people lead healthy lifestyles through education and behaviour change practices that are simple and practical. Her area of expertise lies not just in nutrition management but in health education and promotion in HIV/AIDS, Adolescent Health, Maternal and Child Health as well as Non-Communicable Diseases, which she has engaged in for a decade. She is also a columnist in a leading local Daily. Christine has a keen interest in Non-Communicable Diseases prevention and control. She feels that the world needs more stories that celebrate and normalize desired (good) behaviour, and humanity. “We have many preventable and often manmade public health issues today.”