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Safe for mothers-to-be to lose weight while pregnant

Obese women who exercise and diet to lose weight while pregnant will not harm their baby, suggest scientists.

In the past, doctors did not encourage pregnant women to limit their weight gain or to lose weight, as they were afraid this would hurt the unborn child.

But principal study investigator Raul Artal from Saint Louis University, USA, says: "We found that obese women do not have to gain any weight, and, in fact, can lose weight and it won't hurt the baby.

"Pregnancy is an ideal time to start an exercise and fitness program, particularly for women who are obese."

He added that pregnant women regularly visit their doctor and tend to be highly motivated to make lifestyle changes.

Artal led a team in investigating the affect of weight loss and dieting among 39 obese women.

Babies born to women who lost weight were more likely to be of a normal size while infants born to women who put on weight tended to be larger than normal.

More women who gained weight while pregnant delivered their babies by cesarean section rather than those who lost or kept their weight constant.

"There are so many more obese women and men. We are witnessing an epidemic of overweight and obesity," says Artal.

"Pregnancy seems to be an ideal time for behaviour modification."

Saint Louis University