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Obesity in Pregnancy


What do I need to know before I get pregnant?

Obesity may make it harder for you to get pregnant. You may also have trouble getting pregnant if you choose to have in vitro fertility treatments to get pregnant. Once you get pregnant, your risk of having health problems during pregnancy is higher if you are obese. Your baby would also have an increased risk of certain health problems. You can decrease your chance of having problems during pregnancy by doing the following:

  • Lose weight. Your healthcare provider can help you lose weight safely. He or a dietitian can also help you develop a healthy meal plan to help you lose weight. Ask your healthcare provider how much weight you should lose before you get pregnant.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise can help you lose weight and it can help to improve your health. Ask about the best exercise plan for you.
  • Take folic acid supplements. Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps to decrease the risk of certain birth defects, such as spina bifida. You need to have enough folic acid in your body before and during your pregnancy to decrease this risk. Birth defects can happen in the early part of pregnancy when you may not know that you are pregnant. You may need 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid each day.

What are the ways obesity can affect my pregnancy?

Obesity can increase your risk of the following health problems:

  • High blood pressure and preeclampsia (high blood pressure and problems with kidneys and other organs)
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Infections during pregnancy such as urinary tract infections
  • Longer labor
  • Cesarean birth (c-section) and problems with anesthesia during a c-section
  • Problems after a c-section such as infection, losing too much blood, or blood clots

What are the ways obesity can affect my baby?

Obesity can increase your baby's risk of the following health problems:

  • Birth defects such as heart defects and neural tube defects (defects of the brain and spine) such as spina bifida
  • Large baby (more than 9 pounds 15 ounces), which may increase the risk of injury during delivery
  • Premature birth
  • Miscarriage (loss of fetus before 20 weeks of pregnancy)
  • Stillbirth (a fetus that shows no signs of life after 20 weeks of pregnancy)
  • Health problems later in life such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity

What can I do to have a healthy pregnancy?

You can have a safe and healthy pregnancy. The following can help increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy:

  • See your healthcare provider or obstetrician regularly for prenatal care. Your healthcare provider will examine you and do tests to check your and your baby's health throughout your pregnancy.
  • Do not diet or try to lose weight during pregnancy. You need extra calories and nutrients during pregnancy. Eat a variety of healthy foods and take prenatal vitamins as directed to get the nutrients you need. Work with your healthcare provider or dietitian to develop a healthy meal plan that is right for you.
  • Ask your healthcare provider how much weight you should gain during your pregnancy. He may recommend that you gain between 11 to 20 pounds.
  • Exercise at a safe level throughout your pregnancy. Ask your healthcare provider what kind of physical activities are right for you. He may recommend walking or swimming. If you have not exercised before, you may need to start slowly and then increase the amount over time.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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