Authored by Revere Health

Obesity and Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

February 22, 2019 | Family Medicine

Being overweight or obese during pregnancy can impact not only your health but also the health of your baby. Obesity is defined as having an excessive amount of body fat, and most healthcare providers use the body mass index (BMI) to determine obesity. This measurement is based on your weight and height. A normal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. A BMI over 30.0 indicates obesity.

Healthy Pregnancy Weight

Healthy pregnancy weight is determined by your pre-pregnancy weight, your BMI and your overall health. Generally, if your BMI is normal before pregnancy, you will gain between 25 and 25 pounds during your pregnancy. Overweight women may only need to gain 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy. If you’re obese, you should only gain 11 to 20 pounds during your pregnancy. Your healthcare provider will have specific guidelines for your pregnancy and health.

Side Effects of Obesity During Pregnancy

Obese women often have longer labors when they give birth. Obesity during pregnancy also puts you at higher risk of certain conditions:

  • Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes only diagnosed during pregnancy, but it puts you at risk of having diabetes in the future. Gestational diabetes also increases the likelihood of cesarean delivery (c-section).
  • Preeclampsia is a high blood pressure disorder that occurs during or after a pregnancy that can lead to having to deliver the baby early.
  • Sleep apnea is when you stop breathing for a short time during sleep. During pregnancy, obesity can cause you to have sleep apnea, increasing your fatigue and risk of other health conditions.

Obesity can also put your baby at risk. For example:

  • Obese women are more likely to miscarry during pregnancy than women of normal weight.
  • Babies with obese mothers have an increased risk of heart and neural tube defects.
  • It can be difficult to see certain problems during an ultrasound exam if there is too much body fat on the mother. It may also be difficult to check the baby’s heart rate during labor.
  • Babies born to obese mothers are more likely to be larger than normal, a condition called macrosomia. This increases the risk of injury to the baby during delivery or having to deliver via c-section.
  • Preterm birth is another issue associated with obesity. Obese mothers may give birth before the baby is fully developed, which increases their risk of short- and long-term health problems.
  • Women with higher BMIs have a greater risk of delivering a stillborn baby.

Talk to Your Doctor About Pregnancy and Obesity

Overweight and obese women can have healthy pregnancies, despite the risk, but it’s important to be careful about weight management, diet and exercise during pregnancy. Your doctor may also make special considerations for your delivery and suggest early screenings for gestational diabetes as well as screenings for obstructive sleep apnea.

If you’re concerned about your weight during pregnancy, talk to your healthcare provider about safe weight loss. Work closely with your doctor to help you monitor your baby’s development and your health conditions during your pregnancy.


Dr. Oneida practices the full range of family medicine including obstetrics, pediatrics, adolescent medicine, adult medicine and some orthopedics. She also performs colposcopy, cryotherapy and vasectomies. Due to the volume of deliveries done, her practice has evolved to be more centered on women and children’s medicine, although she enjoys all aspects of family medicine. 



“Taking Care of Vaginal Tears After Delivery.” Healthline.

“Healing after a perineal tear.” HealthInfo. toms-causes/syc-20378017


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.