Are There Drawbacks to Weight Control in Pregnancy?

Are There Drawbacks to Weight Control in Pregnancy?

Dietary and lifestyle interventions in pregnancy can reduce maternal gestational weight gain and improve outcomes for both mother and baby, according to a new study.1 In Europe and the United States, 20% to 40% of women gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy. Previous studies have shown that women who gain an excessive amount of weight during pregnancy are at greater risk for adverse maternal and fetal outcomes. In addition, children born to mothers who are obese are more likely to be obese during childhood and even into adulthood. Identifying which weight-management strategies are safe and effective during pregnancy was the goal of this study.

In a meta-analysis of 44 randomized controlled trials involving 7278 women, 3 categories of interventions were evaluated: diet, physical activity, and a combination of diet and physical activity.1 Women who were assigned an intervention were then compared with women who were not offered an intervention (control group). Women who dieted, exercised, or did both gained 1.42 kg (3.13 lb) less than women in the control group, and none of the interventions had any significant effect on infant birth weight or whether infants were large or small for gestational age. Compared with the control group, all interventions significantly reduced the risk of pre-eclampsia and showed an overall trend toward less risk for gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, preterm birth, and intrauterine death.

Dietary interventions alone had the greatest affect. Women who were mindful of their food intake gained an average of 3.84 fewer kilograms (8.47 lb) than the control group and had better pregnancy outcomes (pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, and preterm births) than those assigned to other interventions.1

The antenatal period is an ideal time to introduce dietary and lifestyle interventions because most women are motivated and open to changes that could optimize outcomes for themselves and their infants. The study authors suggest that dietary interventions should be targeted at women who are overweight or obese, but all patients should be cautioned about excessive weight gain during pregnancy.

Pertinent Point:

Dieting during pregnancy to maintain a healthy weight is safe, effective, and has no adverse effect on the infant’s birth weight, a concern of many pregnant women.


1. Thangaratinam S, Rogozinska E, Jolly K, et al. Effects of interventions in pregnancy on maternal weight and obstetric outcomes: meta-analysis of randomised evidence. BMJ. 2012;344:e2088.

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