Women who developed preeclampsia during a previous pregnancy have some motivation for shedding those baby pounds after giving birth. A recent study found that women with preeclampsia who lost even a small amount of weight before their next pregnancy were less likely to develop preeclampsia again.
Preeclampsia is a serious condition that can develop during mid- or late-pregnancy affecting the health of both mother and child with risk of seizures or stroke if not controlled. It affects between 5 to 8 percent of all pregnant women. Women might first notice abnormal swelling, headaches and vision changes, but it is clinically characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine.
What’s exciting for women wanting to prevent preeclampsia recurrence is that only a two point reduction in BMI was associated with a reduction in women’s risk for recurrent preeclampsia. For example, a 5’4” woman weighing 160 lbs. entering her first pregnancy would lose almost two points from her BMI by achieving a 10 lb. weight loss before her second pregnancy.
Researchers analyzed data from 17,773 women who developed preeclampsia during their first pregnancies and had a second pregnancy. Women were placed into a category depending on whether their body mass index (BMI, an indicator of weight for height) increased, decreased or remained the same at their second pregnancy. When compared to women whose BMI stayed the same between pregnancies, those who increased their BMI had a 30 percent greater risk of preeclampsia recurrence. Those who decreased their BMI were 30 percent less likely to have preeclampsia recur when compared to those whose BMI didn’t change, except for the women who were underweight to begin with.
It’s important to note that this study focused on recurrent preeclampsia, and does not indicate that weight loss will reduce preeclampsia risk for women who have not previously experienced it. However, previous research has shown that women who are overweight or obese are at greater risk for preeclampsia.
If you have experienced preeclampsia and want to lose weight between pregnancies, keep these points in mind:
- Make your “diet” a lifestyle change. During pregnancy, it’s really easy to fall into the trap of eating whatever you want, whenever you want. You’ll have to work at resetting your eating attitude. Start to make healthier choices and make them permanent lifestyle changes.
- Focus on health, not calories. Especially if you’re breastfeeding, focus on being healthy and adding whole grains, fruits and vegetables to your diet. Ditch those empty calories of soda and sweets.
- Exercise. Walk, jump, swim, bike, do cartwheels. Whatever gets you moving helps burn calories, increase energy, and keeps you distracted from snacking, watching TV, and other stationary activities.
- Sleep. Having a child really cuts into catching ZZZs, but studies have shown that lack of sleep can curb weight loss. So just do it: sleep when the baby sleeps.
- Don’t lose weight while pregnant. Weight gain during pregnancy is necessary, just talk to your obstetrician to know how much.
- See a registered dietitian. If you’re having trouble doing it on your own, seek help. Find a dietitian in your area by clicking here.
It’s daunting to lose pregnancy pounds, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Keep your motivation and these tips in mind and remember that what seems like a small weight loss can mean a big boost to you and your baby’s health.