Too much weight gain in first-time pregnancies linked to increased risk of preeclampsia

Too much weight gain in first-time pregnancies linked to increased risk of preeclampsia,
Too much weight gain in first-time pregnancies linked to increased risk of preeclampsia,
Image: 123RF/ Suhendri Utet

New international research has found that gaining too much weight during pregnancy could increase the risk of preeclampsia in women who are giving birth for the first time.

Carried out by researchers from the University of British Columbia, Canada, the Karolinska Institutet and Uppsala University, Sweden, and the University of Pittsburgh, USA, the study looked at how weight gain during pregnancy can affect preeclampsia, a serious pregnancy condition related to gestational high blood pressure.

Preeclampsia typically occurs after 20 weeks gestation and can cause mothers to suffer seizures, stroke, and kidney failure, as well as cause stillbirths.

Although obesity before pregnancy is already known to be a risk factor for the condition, previous research into how weight gain in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy can affect the risk of preeclampsia has proved inconclusive, according to study author Dr. Jennifer Hutcheon.

For the new research, the team looked at 62,705 Swedish women who were experiencing their first pregnancy and tracked how much weight the women gained during pregnancy. 

The team also looked at who developed preeclampsia and the date of the diagnosis to see if preeclampsia was early preterm (<34 weeks), late preterm (34-36 weeks), or term (≥37 weeks).

Of the women, 4.4 percent developed preeclampsia, with the team finding that the risk of developing the condition increased as pregnancy weight gain also increased.  

In addition, high pregnancy weight gain was more strongly linked with term preeclampsia, which develops after 37 weeks of pregnancy, than with more severe forms of preeclampsia that develop earlier in pregnancy.

This risk was also most pronounced in women who had a lower weight at the start of their pregnancy compared with women who were overweight or obese at the start of pregnancy.

For women who are pregnant with one baby, the US National Academy of Medicine recommends that underweight women with a body mass index of less than 18.5 gain 28-40 pounds(12.7 - 18.1 kilograms) and normal weight women with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 gain 25-35 pounds (11.3 - 15.8 kilograms). Overweight women with a BMI of 25 to 29.9  should gain 15-25 pounds (6.8 - 11.3 kilograms) and obese women with a BMI of 30 or more gain 11-20 pounds(4.9-9.0 kilograms).

Ten million women around the world develop preeclampsia each year, with 76,000 pregnant women and an estimated 500,000 babies dying each year due to the condition, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation.  

The results can be found published in the American Heart Association's journal Hypertension.

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