Almost any news about autism captures our attention because, despite its prevalence, it's still one of the least understood developmental disorders. There's no consensus on what actually causes autism, but a recent study suggests one factor might be obesity during pregnancy. The study (Maternal Metabolic Conditions and Risk for Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders), which will be published in the May issue Pediatrics, suggests there's a "strong association" between diabetes, obesity and hypertension during pregnancy and autism. You can learn more about the study from our Pediatrics Guide, Dr. Vince Iannelli and his excellent blog post describing the details of the study.
While we're still in the early stages of understanding what causes autism, this study brings to light the problems that arise from being overweight or obese while pregnant: High blood pressure, increased risk of miscarriage, complications during labor and delivery, increased risk of birth defects and an increased risk that your baby will be obese.
The question here is: If you're overweight or obese and pregnant, should you try to lose weight? The general consensus is no, but there are experts who question this, as well as the general rule that a woman should always gain weight (usually 15-25 pounds) during pregnancy. One of these experts is Dr. Raul Artal who conducted a study involving obese pregnant women to determine the effect of gestational weight change on pregnancy outcomes. The study found that "[l]imited or no weight gain in obese pregnant women has favorable pregnancy outcomes."
Clearly, this is a topic begging for more research and your first resource should be your doctor, but there's one clear message coming out of all of these studies: Eating for two should be a thing of the past, and exercise should move to the top of the priority list for pregnant women (or, at least, for those without any complications or restrictions, of course).
Pregnancy and Exercise Resources
- Exercise During Pregnancy
- How to Get and Stay Active During Pregnancy
- 4 Great Pregnancy Exercises
- 10 Reasons to Exercise in Pregnancy
What about you? Was your weight an issue before or during your pregnancy, or did a loved one experience that problem? What did your doctor recommend and how did you handle it? Leave a comment and tell us about your experiences with pregnancy, obesity and weight gain.