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Pre-Pregnancy Weight An Issue For Mom, Baby

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DURHAM, N.C. — More than 30 percent of women of childbearing age in North Carolina are overweight. The extra pounds can not only affect a woman's health, but also the health of her baby. That is why it is important to shed weight before getting pregnant.

Lisa Holt recently gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Holt's pregnancy, however, was not picture perfect. She needed special attention because of problems with high blood pressure.

"That's the reason I came to Duke. I was high risk," she said.

High blood pressure is one of many conditions that can complicate a pregnancy.


report by the March of Dimes

links obesity to the growing number of problems during pregnancy.

Dr. Anne Ford says obesity can cause problems long before a woman becomes pregnant.

"Being obese can make it harder for you to get pregnant, because you don't ovulate regularly," she said.

Too much weight can also lead to gestational diabetes, dangerously high blood pressure and premature birth.

For babies, it can cause serious birth defects. When they get older, the babies are more likely to suffer from obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

However, pregnancy is not the time to lose weight.

"We really don't recommend people lose weight after they get pregnant," Ford said.

Instead, pregnant women should watch the amount of weight they gain. An average-size woman usually puts on 25 to 30 pounds during pregnancy. For those who are overweight, a weight gain of 10 to 15 pounds is recommended.

Three nutritious meals a day and exercise can help to meet these goals.

"I'd encourage you to walk three miles at least three times a week, every day if you can get it in," Ford said.

Doctors hope putting the spotlight on what weight can do to a baby's health will help parents break the cycle of obesity.

"If you can't do this for yourself, maybe you can do it for your kids," Ford said.

Preconception visits are the best time to address any weight issues with a doctor. The visits should be scheduled three to six months before trying to get pregnant -- even earlier if a woman hashealth problems.


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