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Gaining too much weight could harm baby

November 9, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
New statistics show an alarming amount of pregnant women are obese and it could have a serious effect on their babies.Kristin Ray was creating her fairytale. She was a beautiful bride and then an expectant mother.

These should of been the happiest times of her life, but something happened. Ray gained weight while pregnant.

"I felt really depressed a lot because of my self image," said Ray. "I was just getting bigger and bigger and it was embarrassing."

The first trimester Ray packed on 30 pounds. By her due date, she gained a total of 85 pounds.

"I kept thinking, I'll just worry about taking the weight off after he's born," said Ray.

Dr. Robert Kushner, a medicine specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, says gaining too much weight during pregnancy actually changes the child's genetic make-up in utero. It's called fetal maternal imprinting.

"A baby can be born handicapped," said Dr. Kushner. "Handicapped not so much of a physical disability, but handicapped genetically to either develop diabetes, heart disease or obesity because of the mother's eating schedule."

The Institute of Medicine has issued new guidelines:

  • Normal weight women should gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy
  • Overweight women should gain 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy
  • Obese women should gain 11 to 20 pounds during pregnancy
"The old adage, 'Eat all I want and I'm eating for two,' really doesn't hold anymore," said Dr. Kushner.

A pregnant woman needs 300 extra calories a day. That's less than two bananas.

A baby born to an overweight mom has an increased risk of heart defects, spina bifida, and attention problems.

"I couldn't gain another 85 pounds, I hadn't lost it yet," said Ray.

Now expecting baby number two, Ray is working on a new approach -- daily exercise and smarter choices.

"What I put into my body I know that it's going to affect my children," said Ray.

Recent studies also show a possible link between ADHD and maternal obesity. Experts recommend that women get their weight under control before getting pregnant. And for expectant mothers, doctors say weigh yourself weekly to stay within guidelines.


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