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New NHS pregnancy weight guidance

The NHS says there’s ‘no need to eat for two’ and recommends achieving a healthy weight before conception
By
WebMD Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Keith David Barnard
female doctor consulting female pregnant patient

28th July 2010 - New NHS guidance recommends women to aim for a healthy weight before becoming pregnant, and during pregnancy should only eat for one, not two.

The guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is aimed at GPs, midwives and other health professionals that women will see before, during and after pregnancy.

Half of women of childbearing age either overweight or obese

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health Excellence at NICE says in a statement: “This new guidance is about helping health professionals to help women have a healthy pregnancy - it’s not about preaching to women. About half of women of childbearing age are either overweight or obese, and although obese women can have healthy babies, the evidence does suggest that there are more risks associated with pregnancies in women who have a body mass index (BMI) of over 30 when they become pregnant.

“It’s also important that women do not feel pressurised into rapid weight loss or crash diets after pregnancy; they should understand that weight loss after birth takes time and that physical activity and gradual weight loss will not affect their ability to breastfeed. Losing weight gradually can actually help women maintain a healthy weight in the long-term.”

Kelly says at the moment health professionals do not generally give women information about the risks of obesity during pregnancy and the importance of weight management before or after pregnancy. “We want all women to be supported before, during and after they have children so that both they and their babies have the healthiest outcome possible. The aim of developing this new guidance is to provide health professionals with clear recommendations to help them support women during this important time.”

New guidance

The recommendations include:

Preparing for pregnancy

Doctors, midwives and other health professionals should use any appropriate opportunity to provide obese women (those with a BMI of 30 or more) with information about the health benefits for themselves and their baby of losing weight before becoming pregnant. This should include information on the increased health risks their weight poses to themselves and would pose to their unborn child.

You can work out your BMI here. 

Pregnant women

Explain to women with a BMI of 30 or more how this poses a risk, both to their health and the health of the unborn child. Explain that they should not try to reduce this risk by dieting while pregnant and that the risk will be managed by the health professionals caring for them during their pregnancy.  These women should also be offered a referral to a dietician or appropriately trained health professional for assessment and personalised advice on healthy eating and how to be physically active. Encourage them to lose weight sensibly after pregnancy, and explain that this will not affect their ability to breastfeed.

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