Healthy Weight, Healthy Pregnancy
May 11–17 is Women’s Health Week, a time to focus on making healthier choices to have a healthier lifestyle. If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, now is a good time to make goals to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Preparing for a Healthy Life and Pregnancy
Women’s Health Week is a great time to look at your health choices and find out what you can do to live a healthier life. A healthy lifestyle before becoming pregnant is just one step towards preconception health. Preconception health refers to the health of women and men during their reproductive years, which are the years they can have a child. Preconception health focuses on taking steps now to protect the health of a baby they might have sometime in the future. However, all women can benefit from preconception health, whether or not they plan to have a baby one day. No one expects an unplanned pregnancy, but it happens often. In fact, about half of all pregnancies in the United States are not planned. Preconception health includes getting and staying healthy overall, throughout life.
Obesity and Pregnancy
If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, it is important to try to maintain as healthy a lifestyle as possible in order to increase the chances of having a healthy baby. Women who are overweight or obese are at increased risk of having complications during pregnancy such as diabetes, longer hospital stays, and the need for a cesarean delivery. Their babies are at risk of dying before birth (stillbirth), being too large, and being born too early (preterm birth). The mothers are also at risk for many serious conditions later in life, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers1.
Being overweight or obese increases a woman’s risk of having a baby born with certain birth defects, including birth defects of the brain (anencephaly) and spine (spina bifida), some heart defects, and other birth defects. It also increases the risk of the baby being stillborn. CDC has estimated that each year we could prevent nearly 3,000 heart defects and approximately 400 spina bifida defects in babies, and about 7,000 stillbirths if all women were a healthy weight at the start of pregnancy.2
The key to reaching and keeping a healthy weight is not short-term dietary changes. It's a lifestyle that includes healthy eating and regular physical activity. If you are underweight, overweight, or obese, talk with your doctor about ways to reach and maintain a healthy weight before you get pregnant. As part of Women’s Health Week, take steps now to reach your healthy lifestyle!
- NIH, NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative. Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults. Available online:
- Honein MA, Devine O, Sharma AJ, Rasmussen SA, Park S, Kucik JE, Boyle C. Modeling the Potential Public Health Impact of Prepregnancy Obesity on Adverse Fetal and Infant Outcomes. Obesity 2013.
- Page last reviewed: May 7, 2014
- Page last updated: May 7, 2014
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