Your Health

Obese English Women Told To Cut Calories Before Pregnancy

Obese and thinking about getting pregnant? If you live in England, health officials are now recommending you lose weight beforehand to avoid health complications, including gestational diabetes.

A close-up of a pregnant woman's stomach.

Mom should watch her weight for her own health -- and her baby's. iStockphoto.com hide caption

itoggle caption iStockphoto.com

Oh, and come to think of it, you better watch your calories more closely during and after pregnancy, too, the folks at the U.K.'s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence say.

The group just issued the new advice in response to an obesity epidemic. Some 15 to 20 percent of English women are overweight or obese during pregnancy, NICE says.

Forget that old wives' tale about eating for two while pregnant. Uh-uh, NICE says.

Sure, that bun in the oven needs nutrition. But one of the NICE experts says mom's need for extra calories doesn't hit until the last third of pregnancy. Even then, the increase isn't big — around 200 calories a day, or less than your average bagel.

So how much weight gain is OK during pregnancy?

The U.S. Institute of Medicine took a look at the medical evidence and in early 2009 issued the first new guidelines in two decades.

A precise answer depends on a woman's body mass index, or BMI. For obese American women (BMI greater than 30), a good weight-gain target is 11 to 20 pounds.

Women in good health and with a normal BMI (that's 18.5 to 24.9) should gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. Underweight women (BMI less than 18.5) should put on more weight — 28 to 40 pounds. And overweight women (BMI of 25 to 29.9) should keep the gain to 15 to 25 pounds.

Finally, nobody thinks it's a good idea to go on a crazy diet during or after pregnancy. "Women should understand that weight loss after birth takes time and that physical activity and gradual weight loss will not affect their ability to breastfeed," Professor Mike Kelly, director of the Centre for Public Health Excellence at NICE, said in a statement.

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