Midwives today called for new guidelines to be introduced on how much weight women should gain during pregnancy. Currently there are no official targets for how much is normal or healthy to gain, and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is considering reintroducing regular weigh-ins, reported the BBC.
Weigh-ins were phased out in the 1990s as it was believed they caused women needless stress and anxiety. But with a fifth of women in the UK now officially classified as "obese" when they start pregnancy, some health professionals believe greater clarity is needed to prevent potential complications in pregnancy.
Current advice warns against "eating for two" but also recommends not dieting during pregnancy and only eating an extra 200 calories a day during the last three months of pregnancy. A woman's weight and height are routinely measured at her first appointment but not routinely tracked as the pregnancy progresses.
But NICE today said it may adopt US-style guidelines, which recommend weight-tracking and set clear weight targets, in its new advice, which looks likely to be published in 2019.
The recommendations coincide with the release of a study in the journal Diabetologia, which found that gaining too much or too little weight during pregnancy was linked to adverse effects in children aged seven, including greater odds of higher body fat, high blood pressure and poorer blood sugar control.
The Royal College of Midwives and NICE may support greater clarity surrounding pregnancy weight gain, but many women have shared their concerns. Siri Egede, 31, who is currently 22 weeks pregnant, said she was weighed by a doctor at her first appointment but her weight hasn't been a topic of conversation since. She told Refinery29 she was worried about the potential impact of prescriptive weight guidelines on women.
"There are already quite a lot of rules to keep track of [during pregnancy] – what to eat, how to move, etc – that if I had been told to keep track of my weight as well I think that would have been a stressor," Egede added. "There's so much focus on the 'normal' pregnancy even though everyone seems to experience different things." The verdict was similarly negative among many women on social media.
Monitoring pregnant women’s weights was phased out in the 90s due to the #stress it caused: why is there talk about retuning to it now?— Judith Johnson (@DrJTJohnson) September 18, 2018
Next we’ll be reading about soaring rates of anxiety in pregnant women due to unrealistic expectations.https://t.co/hUm9ReMgID #health
Pregnant women to face the regular weigh ins... As though I didn't have enough anxiety about my weight without having to worry about that every appointment 😭— Samantha ❤️ (@Samanthafurnell) September 18, 2018
However, some women support the guidelines and believe greater clarity would be helpful. Gina Lyons, 33, who is 27 weeks pregnant, said she was "not against tracking weight" and is keeping tabs on her own without scales. "I’m trying to keep walking, not eating 'whatever I want' and generally trying to not pig out in the excuse I’m pregnant."
She continued: "I’ve been an overeater all my life and was very nervous about getting pregnant and thinking I’d start eating for two. People overindulge while pregnant and it’s not good for the mother or the baby."
30-year-old Lauren Bird, who is nine weeks pregnant, also supports the proposed guidelines. She's been weighed during both of her appointments so far but would welcome more advice. "As well as distributing advice on what to eat, what jabs to have and how to stay active etcetera, there should be a recommendation on ‘standard’ weight gain – ideally a sliding scale of the range of weight you should aim to gain at each stage," she told Refinery29.
"While I don’t usually track my weight, I'll start to pay more attention to it throughout pregnancy because it will help me to stay healthy. It would be great to have some certified guidelines that will help guide me in this process."