According to researchers at Penn State College of Medicine, overweight women with an “eating for two” attitude during pregnancy are more likely to experience excessive weight gain. Researchers studied the habits and attitudes of a broad range of women who experienced various levels of weight gain throughout their pregnancy.
According to the Institute of Medicine, the recommended weight gain during pregnancy is 25 to 35 pounds for women who are not overweight. The range for overweight and obese women is 15 to 25 pounds and 11 to 20 pounds respectively. The definition of ‘overweight’ is a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29, while a BMI of more than 29 is considered ‘obese’.
As part of the study, researchers analyzed 29 post-partum women who were obese or overweight before pregnancy. Women were interviewed specifically about their eating and exercise habits during pregnancy. Of the women interviewed, 11 were within the normal guidelines for weight gain and 18 were above.
The women who experienced appropriate weight gain chose their foods carefully and maintained a meal plan. They didn’t have a substantial increase in calories and exercised at least as much during pregnancy as before. Researchers noted a more goal oriented approach to weight management from these women.
Women with excessive weight gain during pregnancy often verbalized their attitude as “eating for two.” They more often ate as a response to cravings, made more unhealthy food choices, reduced their levels of exercise and set fewer specific goals related to weight management. None of the women with excessive weight gain hit the federal guidelines for exercise, which includes 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week.
For normal weight pregnant women, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) suggest approximately 300 extra calories each day. This number is even less for overweight or obese women. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy can cause additional postpartum weight gain, premature birth, and long term obesity.
It’s advisable to discuss weight gain guidelines with your healthcare provider early into your pregnancy. Closely monitoring your weight gain during pregnancy can help avoid future complications.