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Maternal obesity has a wide range of health effects on both the pregnant woman and developing fetus. The clinical significance of these disorders, combined with a dramatically increasing prevalence of obesity among pregnant women has precipitated a major health crisis in the United States. The most commonly used recommendations for gestational weight gain were established by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2009 and have become well known and often adopted. The authors of the IOM report acknowledged that the recommended gestational weight gain of 5 to 9 kg for obese women whose body mass index was greater than 30 kg/m2 was based on very little empirical evidence. The objective of this study was to evaluate whether a 5 to 9 kg weight gain, for obese women, optimized a set of maternal and neonatal health outcomes.


Data containing approximately 12,000,000 birth records were obtained from the United States Natality database for the years 2014 to 2016. A Bayesian modeling approach was used to estimate the controlled direct effects of pre-pregnancy body mass index and gestational weight gain.


Obese women gaining less than 5 kg during pregnancy had reduced maternal risks for gestational hypertension, eclampsia, induction of labor and Caesarian section. In contrast, maternal gestational weight gain of less than 5 kg was associated with increased risks for multiple adverse neonatal outcomes with macrosomia the exception. Obese women who gained more than 9 kg during pregnancy had increased risk for multiple maternal and neonatal adverse outcomes.


Obese women who were observed to gain less than 5 kg during gestation had reduced odds of several peripartum disorders. However, this lower gestational weight gain was associated with an increase in multiple risks for the neonate.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Publication Title

BMC Pregnancy Childbirth



Academic Level

medical student



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