Pregnancy and obesity: Know the risks

Pregnancy and obesity

Obesity is defined as possessing an excessive amount of body fat. A measurement that is based on height and weight — known as the body mass index (BMI) — is used to determine if an individual is obese. A BMI of 18.5-24.9 is normal while 25-29.9 is overweight, 30.0-34.9 is obese (class I), 35-39.9 is obese (classII), and 40.0 and higher is extreme obesity (class III).

Can obesity affect my ability to get pregnant?

Being obese may harm fertility by inhibiting normal ovulation. Even in women who regularly ovulate, the greater the BMI, the longer it takes to conceive.

How might obesity affect my pregnancy?

Being obese during pregnancy increases the risk of various pregnancy complications for mothers, including:

  • High blood pressure and pre-eclampsia – a condition that develops in pregnant women, marked by high blood pressure and presence of protein in the urine
  • Thrombosis (blood clots) is a condition in which blood flow in a blood vessel is completely or partly blocked
  • Gestational diabetes is a kind of diabetes some women suffer from during pregnancy
  • Obstructive sleep apnoea is a disorder in which your breathing stops while you’re sleeping
  • PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age, is more likely to be diagnosed in obese women

Risks for your baby linked with a high BMI include the following:

  • Premature birth (when a baby is born before they have developed completely)
  • Baby having a high birth weight
  • Obesity and diabetes in their later life

With proper support, you can stop this cycle from being repeated.

Tips to Avoid Unwanted Gestational Weight Gain

You can limit the impact of obesity on pregnancy and ensure your health and your baby’s by adopting the following measures:

  • Opt for low-fat dairy products

Calcium needs generally increase during pregnancy.  Most pregnant women need to consume three-four servings of dairy products each day.  By choosing alternatives like skim milk, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat cheeses, you can save about half the calories.

  • Choose your snacks wisely

Chips, cookies, donuts, and cakes offer unwanted calories and limited nutrients. So, try to limit consuming such high-fat snacks to once a week.  Also, go through the food label to choose snacks that have lesser grams of fat per servings. Some healthier options include fresh fruit pretzels, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat ice cream.  Also, space your snacks evenly between meals.

  • Eat fiber-rich food

A fiber-rich diet keeps you fuller longer, minimizing blood sugar spikes post meals.  For those experiencing constipation during pregnancy, fibers help reverse the problem.  Fiber-rich foods include beans, peas, oats, fruits, seeds, lentils, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

  • Limit extra calories from beverages

Fluid needs usually increase during pregnancy. Plan to meet most of those extra fluid requirements with water instead of soda, juice or any other beverage that is high in calories and may potentially damage your developing baby.

  • Reduce added salt in your diet

Avoid adding salt to food while eating or cooking as it makes your body retain fluid weight.

  • Be physically active

Consult your healthcare provider to know about the safe ways to be physically active during pregnancy, such as walking or swimming

  • Schedule a preconception appointment

If you’re obese and considering getting pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider. He/she is likely to recommend a prenatal vitamin and refer you to other healthcare providers like a dietitian or an obesity specialist who can help reach a healthy weight before and during pregnancy

  • Seek regular prenatal care

Prenatal visits can help healthcare provider monitor your any medical condition you may have — such as diabetes, high blood pressure or sleep apnoea

And last but not least, avoid risky substances. If you are a smoker, seek help from your healthcare provider to help quit. Alcohol and illicit drugs are off-limits, too

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