Obesity before Pregnancy Can Cause Future Health Problems

Obesity before Pregnancy Can Cause Future Health Problems

Obesity before pregnancy is an issue that can be controversial. But what is known is that going into pregnancy with a healthy body weight will be better for both mother and baby.

A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia reported that there has been a significant increase in the number of overweight and obese first-time mothers.

As a result, medical experts are calling for a national strategy to help young women who are preparing for pregnancy to achieve a healthy weight before conceiving a baby. Research shows that the obesity epidemic is causing ‘substantial’ health problems for both mother and child.

Obesity before Pregnancy

The Research into Obesity before Pregnancy

Researchers analysed the data for more than 42,000 first-time mothers who gave birth to a single child between January 1990 and December 2014. These births were all at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, Australia.

The Results

  1. The prevalence of mothers who were classified overweight according to their body mass index (BMI) increased from 12.7 per cent to 16.4 per cent. BMI determines whether you are in a healthy weight range for your height.

2.  The prevalence of obesity rose from 4.8 per cent to 7.3 per cent, while the proportion of women with a ‘normal’ weight range fell from 73.5 per cent to 68.2 per cent.

3.  For almost one in four pregnant women who had pre-eclampsia between 2010-2014; the condition was attributable to carrying too much weight.

4. Being overweight or obese was associated with 17 per cent of gestational diabetes cases and 23.4 per cent of foetal macrosomia (a baby weighing more than four kilograms).

Planning for Pregnancy Fitness

Associate Professor Associate Professor Kirsten Black

‘However a ‘wide range’ of these complications could have been averted if these women had lost enough weight to drop one BMI (body mass index) category.

‘We could prevent around 19 per cent of pre-eclampsia cases, 15.9 per cent of macrosomia, 14.2 per cent of gestational diabetes and about 8.5 per cent of caesarean sections,’ Professor Black said.

‘Nearly six per cent of babies born premature could have been prevented, she added.’
What is Needed?

The authors of this study have called for a greater investment in obesity prevention strategies that target women who are preparing for pregnancy. Ideally, attaining a healthy weight well before you even start considering to starting a family is the goal.

Associate Professor Associate Professor Kirsten Black

‘At the time of conception, the health and lifestyle of parents, including diet, body weight and smoking, impacts not only on the developing foetus but also on the long term health outcomes of that child,’ Professor Black said.

The World Health Organisation, looking at trying to end childhood obesity, lists pre-conception care as one of the six key strategies.

Preparing for Pregnancy - Obesity before Pregnancy


Because it’s vital that the mother’s weight is as normal as possible around the time of conception. This is because it will have implications not only for weight but also for metabolic disease in the child and cardiovascular disease potentially in the future,’ she said.

Preparing for Pregnancy with PregActive

PregActive’s ‘Preparing for Pregnancy’ program and in-studio classes are designed to help women achieve a healthy weight before pregnancy and to also physically prepare their body for carrying a baby throughout pregnancy as well as better managing the body changes that occur post pregnancy.

This research only further emphasises the important point that the health of the mother contributes to the future health of their baby. So getting PregActive today is just as important before pregnancy as it is when you are pregnant.

Planning for Pregnancy Fitness


Kerryn Boyle
Kerryn is a Prenatal Exercise Instructor. Kerryn’s areas of expertise includes providing women with safe at-home pregnancy workouts and postpartum workouts. From pregnancy yoga classes to week by week, it's all right here.

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