Eating for Two? How Your Weight Before -- and During -- Pregnancy Affects Your Baby's Health

Lots of women take that whole “eating-for-two” thing and run with it the minute the pregnancy test comes back positive. After all, what’s not to love about being told -- probably for the first and only time ever -- to gain weight? Unfortunately, new research shows that women who carry excess weight before and during pregnancy are putting their future kids at risk for some serious health complications.

Overweight women are more likely to birth overweight babies and the risks continue into childhood and beyond, according to new research from the March of Dimes. A mother's excess weight can increase her child’s chances of developing insulin resistance, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, all of which can lead to heart disease and diabetes. Being at a healthy pre-pregnancy weight, on the other hand, is associated with lower odds of preterm birth and birth defects.

If you could stand to drop a few pounds, don't worry -- you’re not alone. According to the March of Dimes, 66 percent of women of reproductive age are overweight. The agency recommends shedding excess body fat before attempting to get pregnant, ideally; if you’re expecting and were pudgy going in, talk to your doctor about the right amount of weight gain for your baby’s and your own health. Making an effort to get back into shape after the baby comes will give you more energy to handle your new-mom duties, and boost the odds of a healthy next pregnancy (not that you’re ready to think about that yet!)

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