October 22, 2009

Healthy Moms: CHR's Landmark Trial on Obesity in Pregnancy View Video »

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Research finds that three quarters of obese women gain more than the recommended 15 pounds during pregnancy—and retain nearly half the weight a year later

CHR investigators are making headlines with their research on obesity in pregnancy. Leading the research is Kim Vesco, MD, MPH, also a KPNW OB/GYN, who is concerned that more than half her patients are overweight or obese, compromising the health of mother and baby.

In a new study published in the November issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Dr. Vesco and CHR co-investigator Vic Stevens, PhD, report that obese women who gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy are much more likely to retain a portion of that weight one year after they give birth. In a retrospective 5-year review funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers looked at 1,656 KPNW members whose body mass index (BMI) was 30 or higher at the start of their pregnancies. Women who gained more than 35 pounds were nearly eight times more likely to retain at least 10 of those pounds one year after the baby was born; younger women and those having their first baby were most likely to gain more than 15 pounds.

New clinical trial, Healthy Moms, is the first to help obese women maintain weight during pregnancy, challenging IOM guidelines

Building on these findings, Drs. Vesco and Stevens are launching a new study in November, Healthy Moms, funded by a $2.2 million grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. It’s the first trial of an intervention specifically designed to help obese women not gain weight during their pregnancies. “We believe they can safely maintain their pre-pregnancy weight and deliver healthier babies,” says Dr. Vesco.

“It may seem counterintuitive to suggest that women control their weight during pregnancy, but these women are already carrying between 50 and 100 extra pounds—and for them, any more weight gain could be very dangerous,” said Dr. Stevens. Healthy Moms will recruit women for 18 months, and preliminary results are expected in three years.

The study challenges new guidelines that the Institute of Medicine released in May 2009 recommending that obese women gain 11–20 pounds in pregnancy.

This research is especially important given the obesity epidemic in America, where over half of women are overweight or obese when they become pregnant. Extra weight increases the risk of pregnancy and delivery complications including diabetes, preeclampsia, C-sections, birthing injuries, and stillbirths. It also increases a child’s risk for obesity as an adult.

Kaiser Permanente is America’s leading integrated health care organization. Founded in 1945, the organization serves the health needs of more than 8.7 million people nationwide. Nearly 480,000 people in Oregon and Southwest Washington receive their health care from Kaiser Permanente.  www.kaiserpermanente.org.

For more information contact:

Mary Sawyers, (503) 335-6602, Mary.A.Sawyers@kpchr.org or
Gail Mathabane, (503) 758-9024, Gail.Mathabane@kpchr.org.

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Kaiser Permanente