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Study Discovers An Efficient Way To Prevent Concerning Weight Gain During Pregnancy

Yes, there is an app for that!

A new study out of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago has found that women who are overweight or obese can safely restrict their weight gain during pregnancy, with a little help.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of U.S. women gain too much weight during pregnancy. The National Institute of Medicine (NAM) recommends that women of healthy weight should gain 25-35 lbs during pregnancy, while overweight women should gain 15-25 lbs. It recommends that obese women gain just 11-20 lbs.

Researchers in this latest study, which was published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found that with the help of nutritional counselling and a smartphone app, women can, in fact, prevent concerning weight gain during pregnancy. The study followed 281 women who were overweight or obese at the start of their pregnancies and divided them into two groups. One group was dubbed the 'intervention group', and the other, the 'usual-care group'.

The intervention group received nutritional counselling with a certified nutritionist, particularly when it came to following the DASH diet - a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and low-fat dairy foods and lower in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol. These women were also instructed to use a smartphone app that recorded everything they ate and were given feedback on their diet by the nutritionist. In addition, they were asked to complete at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, and record it on a pedometer.

The usual-care group was simply given general dietary and physical activity advice during pregnancy but did not have access to an app or coaching. At 35 weeks gestation, women in the first group were found to have gained an average of 22 lbs, compared to the usual-care group, who gained 26. In the intervention group, 31 per cent actually stayed within the NAM recommendations for weight gain during pregnancy, while in the usual-care group, only 15 per cent did.

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Dr. Saima Aftab, medical director at the Fetal Care Center at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami, says that currently, doctors do not have specific tools to help pregnant women restrict weight gain. Aftab noted that the type of program designed in the study "may be a solution in the future."

Overweight or obese women during pregnancy risk serious complications, such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, posing a potential danger to both mother and baby. Babies born from mothers who are overweight are typically larger, which can lead to delivery complications as well as low blood sugar levels in the newborn. Down the road, these babies may also be at higher risk for obesity in childhood.

Researchers plant follow the children that were born from this study until they are at least 3 to 5 years old to answer the question if children born to mothers who restricted their weight gain in pregnancy have a lower risk of obesity themselves.

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