Friday, 12 January 2007

Weight gain between pregnancies

Preeclampsia is an illness that affects women during pregnancy, or straight after the baby is born. It can affect both the woman and her unborn baby. After a relative of mine was affected by this illness, I decided to see if research had shown a link between a woman's weight and her risk of developing preeclampsia. Here's what I found on the Action on Preeclampsia website.

A study of 150,000 women found that those who gained weight after their first baby risked serious complications during a second pregnancy.
Even women who were not overweight but who gained weight after their first baby were at risk if they had a second one.

The study looked at the body mass index or weight-height ratio (BMI) of the women both after their first and before their second pregnancy. Researchers found that a gain of one or two BMI units increased, by an average of 20 to 40 percent, a woman's risk of pregnancy-linked diabetes, high blood pressure, or babies with a high birth weight. An increase of three or more BMI units resulted in a 63% greater chance of stillbirth compared with a gain of less than one BMI unit.

The research was carried out by Eduardo Villamor, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, in collaboration with Sven Cnattingius, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. According to Dr Villamor, women do not need to become overweight or obese between pregnancies to increase their risk of serious complications. Even a moderate increase in weight between the first and second pregnancy could result in serious illnesses. Weight loss in overweight women seemed to lower their risk of pregnancy complications.

In The Lancet medical journal Dr Villamor said: “A key public health message from our study is that women of normal weight should avoid gaining weight between pregnancies. In addition, overweight and obese women are likely to benefit from weight loss if they are planning to become pregnant.”

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