ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) — Gaining excessive weight during pregnancy can lead to obesity issues throughout life for women who are already at risk, according to a new study.

Researchers found that putting on too much weight while pregnant can cause excess body fat and pounds that remain, as reported by AJMC.

Columbia University researchers evaluated about 300 women, all of whom were African-American or Dominican, between the years of 1998 and 2013. The study group was at risk of becoming obese due to socioeconomic factors and unhealthy dietary patterns, according to the authors.

The participants had an average body mass index (BMI) of 25.6 prior to being pregnant, just slightly above the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention guidelines for being overweight. Five percent of participants were underweight, 53 percent were at a healthy weight, 20 percent were overweight, and 22 percent were obese.

The study suggests that 64 percent of these women put on more weight than the 15 to 20 pounds recommended by health officials. The women were then monitored for seven years after giving birth.

Researchers found that women with the lowest BMIs who gained a lot of weight during pregnancy were most likely to retain that weight years after giving birth. Women who had a pre-pregnancy BMI of 22 and gained excessive weight during pregnancy saw a 3 percent higher body fat level in the years to come. For participants with a BMI of 30, considered obese by the CDC, excessive weight gain was linked to 0.58 percent higher body fat. Both groups saw increased weight retention as well.

“Gestational weight gain greater than the  Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations has long-term implications for weight-related health,” Dr. Elizabeth Widen, co-author of this study, told AJMC. “These findings also suggest that normal and modestly overweight women may be more physiologically sensitive to effects of high gestational weight gain and, therefore, need to be further supported to gain weight appropriately during pregnancy.”

The study was based on IOM guidlines for healthy weight gain during pregnancy. Women at a healthy weight are encouraged to gain about 25 to 35 pounds, while overweight women are encouraged to gain 15 to 25 pounds. Research suggests about 47 percent of women exceed these guidelines during pregnancy.


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