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Study Questions Advice Given to Obese Pregnant Women

FRIDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Too few overweight and obese pregnant women receive appropriate advice about healthy weight gain or appropriate exercise, a small new study finds.

Excessive weight gain during pregnancy is particularly concerning for overweight and obese women because they already are at increased risk for pregnancy complications, the researchers from Penn State College of Medicine said.

They interviewed 12 overweight and 12 obese women after the birth of their first child. All but three women exceeded the recommended pregnancy weight gain.

The researchers found that health care providers advised 12 of the 24 women to gain too much weight during pregnancy, using the guidelines for normal-weight women rather than the appropriate weight guideline.

These guidelines are based on the women's weight at the start of pregnancy, a Penn State news release noted. In the guidelines, normal-weight women are advised to gain 25 to 35 pounds, overweight women to gain 15 to 25 pounds and obese women to gain less than 20 pounds.

In the study, health care providers did not discuss weight gain with nine of the 24 women and gave nonspecific advice to one woman. They advised an appropriate weight gain to only two pregnant women.

"Women received little, if any, feedback regarding whether their weight gain during pregnancy was healthy or not," Dr. Cynthia Chuang, associate professor of medicine and public health sciences, said in the news release. "Some women who received their care at obstetrical group practices and were seen by different providers in the same practice even received conflicting advice."

Only 10 women received advice about exercise during pregnancy. None were told to increase their levels of activity and none were told how long to exercise or that exercise intensity should be moderate to vigorous.

Most of the women did not exercise before they became pregnant, so when these women were told not to exercise more intensely during pregnancy they took it literally.

"This advice was interpreted to mean that they should not exercise at all," Chuang said. "Unfortunately, this is in conflict with the federal physical activity guidelines that recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise in healthy pregnant women, even in previously inactive women."

The researchers said it's unclear why overweight and obese women are not receiving proper advice about weight gain and exercise during pregnancy. The study was published in the November issue of the journal Women's Health Issues.

More information

The March of Dimes has more about overweight and obesity during pregnancy.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Penn State, news release, Dec. 10, 2012

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