Midwives are demanding official guidance for women on how much weight to gain during pregnancy after research shows that too much or too little can have adverse effects on children.
Guidance is being considered by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to set a target of 2st 7Ibs gain for women of a healthy weight and 1st 6Ibs gain for those who are considered obese according to their Body Mass Index (BMI).
‘During pregnancy women are very receptive to messages and advice about weight management issues and midwives can have a real impact on improving women’s health and wellbeing,’ said Mandy Forrester, head of quality and standards at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
‘This research highlights the need for guidelines on weight gain in pregnancy in the UK. The RCM and Slimming World issued a call in July for UK guidelines on what constitutes a safe weight gain.’
The research, published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes) showed that adverse effects from too much or too little weight gain appeared in children at 7 years old.
Children experienced high blood pressure and poor control of blood sugar and mothers who gained too much weight tended to have larger children with higher body fat.
A survey of 110 midwives and 740 women conducted by the weight loss organisation, Slimming World, and the RCM found that overweight expectant mothers feel confused by a lack of clear information – and midwives expressed concerns that they could not adequately support women with an absence of clear guidelines.
‘There is a clear need for midwives to have the tools, guidance and training they need so that they can offer women the best possible support and care,’ added Ms Forrester.
‘This is especially pressing because of the potentially serious complications that can arise in pregnancy as a result of women being overweight or obese.’
One in five women start pregnancy obese – meaning that they have a BMI in the ‘obese’ range of 30 or more – and excess weight in pregnancy is linked to an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, gestational diabetes and still birth.
‘Women are encouraged to maintain a healthy weight before, during and after pregnancy by eating a well-balanced diet and taking part in regular exercise. It is also important to avoid dieting during pregnancy,’ said Daghni Rajasingam of the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists. ‘Having a healthy weight before conception increases the chances of falling pregnant naturally and reduces the risk of pregnancy and birth complications.’