Higher weight gain in first-time pregnant moms could boost chance for dangerous condition

June 18, 2018, American Heart Association
Higher weight gain in first-time pregnant moms could boost chance for dangerous condition
Credit: American Heart Association

Higher weight gain during pregnancy increases the risk of preeclampsia in women giving birth for the first time, new research shows.

The study published Monday explored how affects , a serious pregnancy condition related to gestational high blood pressure. Ten million around the world develop preeclampsia each year, resulting in the death of 76,000 pregnant women and an estimated 500,000 babies, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation.

Obesity prior to pregnancy already is a well-identified risk factor for preeclampsia. But previous research found conflicting results on how the condition is affected by high in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, said study author Dr. Jennifer Hutcheon, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

"Our study found that high pregnancy weight gain in the second half of pregnancy increases a woman's chance of developing preeclampsia and this risk is most pronounced in women who were leaner at the start of their pregnancy compared with women who were overweight or obese at the start of pregnancy," Hutcheon said.

The new study, in the American Heart Association's journal Hypertension, looked at more than 62,000 Swedish women who had never given birth of which 4.4 percent developed preeclampsia and tracked how much weight the women had gained during their pregnancy.

According to other research, obesity increases the overall risk of preeclampsia by approximately 2- to 3-fold, and that risk progressively increases with increasing BMI, even within the normal range.

Preeclampsia can cause stillbirths and mothers to suffer seizures, stroke, kidney failure, and other serious problems.

The new study also found that high weight gain was more strongly linked with preeclampsia developing after 37 weeks of pregnancy than with more severe forms of preeclampsia that develop earlier in pregnancy, Hutcheon said. "This finding may provide clues as to the biological mechanisms causing these two subtypes of preeclampsia."

Dr. Haywood Brown, outgoing president of The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, praised the study as "powerful information that's really going to add something to our literature and help us counsel people going into pregnancy. It's strong evidence that weight gain is associated with preeclampsia, and staying within the guidelines of weight gain is very important."

Brown, an OB/GYN who was not involved in the study, said the research was limited by being conducted in Sweden, a country with a predominately white population.

"So, the generalization to African Americans and Hispanics might not necessarily be there," Brown said. "We need to duplicate this study in the U.S., in more diverse populations, and also because this is a country where about 60 percent of the population is overweight and obese."

Brown said the study underscores the importance of women and their doctors paying close attention to how much weight is gained during .

For women who are pregnant with one baby, the National Academy of Medicine recommends:

  • Underweight women with a body mass index of less than 18.5, gain 28-40 pounds
  • Normal weight women with BMI 18.5 to 24.9, gain 25-35 pounds
  • Overweight women with BMI 25 to 29.9, gain 15-25 pounds
  • Obese women with BMI of 30 or more, gain 11-20 pounds.

"We've kind of gotten away from counseling on weight , and we need to get back to that," said Brown. "We need to have a conversation with patients when they come in for that first prenatal visit and counsel them to stick to the recommendations. The message here is we need to go into preventative mode."

Explore further: Weight gain between pregnancies linked to increased risk of gestational diabetes

More information: Jennifer A. Hutcheon et al. Pregnancy Weight Gain Before Diagnosis and Risk of Preeclampsia, Hypertension (2018). DOI: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.118.10999

Related Stories

Weight gain between pregnancies linked to increased risk of gestational diabetes

August 1, 2017
The risk of developing gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) increases with increased weight gain between pregnancies, according to a new study published in PLOS Medicine by Linn Sorbye of the University of Bergen, Norway, ...

Marked increase in cardiovascular risk factors in women after preeclampsia

February 28, 2018
Women diagnosed with preeclampsia during pregnancy were significantly more likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol within five years compared with women who did not have preeclampsia, in a study ...

Weight gain greater, less than recommended during pregnancy linked with increased risk of adverse outcomes

June 6, 2017
In an analysis that included more than 1.3 million pregnancies, weight gain during pregnancy that was greater or less than guideline recommendations was associated with a higher risk of adverse outcomes for mothers and infants, ...

Pregnant Asian women who develop high blood pressure at highest risk for heart failure hospitalization

November 14, 2017
Women who develop high blood pressure during pregnancy are more likely to experience heart problems within a few years of giving birth, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific ...

Pre-pregnancy heart abnormalities may predict recurrent preeclampsia risk

February 22, 2016
Women who had pregnancy-related high blood pressure multiple times had recognizable heart abnormalities between pregnancies that could help predict their risk for heart and blood vessel disease during subsequent pregnancies ...

Stroke risk factors for pregnant women with preeclampsia uncovered

May 25, 2017
Women with preeclampsia, a common complication of pregnancy, face a heightened risk of stroke during pregnancy and postpartum if they have urinary tract infections, chronic high blood pressure, or clotting or bleeding disorders, ...

Recommended for you

New technology can keep an eye on babies' movements in the womb

July 19, 2018
A new system for monitoring fetal movements in the womb, developed by Imperial researchers, could make keeping an eye on high-risk pregnancies easier.

Why baby's sex may influence risk of pregnancy-related complicatations

July 12, 2018
The sex of a baby controls the level of small molecules known as metabolites in the pregnant mother's blood, which may explain why risks of some diseases in pregnancy vary depending whether the mother is carrying a boy or ...

Study analyzes opioid overdose risk during and after pregnancy among Massachusetts women

July 11, 2018
A study of women giving birth in Massachusetts found a higher level of opioid use disorder than have studies conducted in other states. In a paper published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, the research team—consisting ...

High blood pressure in pregnancy linked to mother's heart function

July 9, 2018
Pregnant women who develop high blood pressure, or have small babies, may have hearts that pump less blood with each beat.

What you eat while pregnant may affect your baby's gut

July 4, 2018
A mother's diet during pregnancy may have an effect on the composition of her baby's gut microbiome—the community of bacteria living in the gut—and the effect may vary by delivery mode, according to study published in ...

New study reveals time and day women are most likely to give birth

June 15, 2018
A new study has found that the time and day that women give birth can vary significantly depending on how labour starts and the mode of giving birth.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.