We often get asked at FORZA what is the ideal weight for getting pregnant? The obvious answer is that your weight isn’t what gets you pregnant; it’s usually something a little more intimate that makes that happen! Joking aside, it is common knowledge in these modern times where we count every calorie and hunt down protein rich foods that being the right weight will help you and your unborn baby’s conception and gestation.
Being largely overweight, or maybe obese, is common in a world where restaurants and coffee chains appear faster than gyms and health food shops. Having a body mass index of over 30 is considered obese. Unsurprisingly 15-20% of pregnant women are segmented into this category; if this is you, don’t worry just yet.
Astonishingly there were 697,852 live births in England and Wales in 2015, an increase of 0.4% from 2014. Which means the population is growing and more people are having healthy pregnancies than before. However, In 2015, the total fertility rate declined to 1.82 children per woman, from 1.83 back in 2014.
There are many theories around why the fertility rate has decreased and one surrounds the increase of overweight women attempting to fall pregnant. In addition to this, the average age of women trying for children is increasing with the average age of mothers increasing to 30.3 years, compared with 30.2 years in 2014.
Taking the above into account, our trends really are changing in the UK because the fertility rate for women aged 40 and over rose above the rate for women aged under 20 for the first time since 1947.
As if the problem wasn’t big enough as to which weight we should be, but age is just as important as ever. According to Elizabeth McLaren, Vital Statistics Outputs Branch, Office for National Statistics “The trend for women to have babies at older ages continued in 2015. Over the last 40 years, the percentage of live births to women aged 35 and over has increased considerably. Women aged 40 and over, now have a higher fertility rate than women aged fewer than 20 – this was last recorded in the 1940s.”
The fact is, however, we cannot do anything about our ages, that is irreversible and whilst time travel remains off the table we are best advised to look more closely at nutrition and “The best weight to get pregnant”.
If, like one fifth of the UK population you are overweight or heavier than you would like to be, the best way to safeguard your wellbeing and your baby’s health is to reduce your weight before you actually get pregnant. By reaching a healthier, more balanced weight, you will increase your chance of conceiving naturally and reduce the risks of problems connected with being overweight in your pregnancy, as discussed below.
Not to worry though, If you do get pregnant before losing weight, the good news is many women who are overweight have a straightforward pregnancy and birth, and have healthy babies that go on to live normal lives. However, we cannot ignore the fact that being overweight increases the risk of complications for both you and your baby. According to the NHS good antenatal care can help to minimise these risks.
Risks of being overweight in pregnancy
The National Health Service (NHS) acknowledges that being overweight increases the risk of complications for pregnant women and their babies. They say that the higher a woman’s BMI, the higher the risks. You are also more likely to need an induction and instrumental (ventouse or forceps) delivery, and an emergency caesarean section.
Problems for your baby can include being born early (before 37 weeks), and double the risk of stillbirth (rising from 1 in 200 in the UK to 1 in 100 for those who have a BMI of 30 or more). There is also a significantly higher risk of foetal abnormality, including neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Overall, around 1 in 1000 new born children with neural tube defects in the UK. Sadly, If your BMI is over 40, the risk is three times the risk of a woman with a BMI below 30.
The risk of miscarriage under 12 weeks is measured at one in five or 20%; if you have a BMI over 30, the risk is one in four or 25%. If your BMI is 30 or above, you are three times more likely to develop gestational diabetes than women whose BMI is below 30.
Pregnant women who are overweight are at increased risk of high blood pressure and therefore pre-eclampsia, if you have a BMI of 35 or above at the beginning of your pregnancy, your risk of pre-eclampsia is two times that of a women who has a BMI under 25. With all that said it must be remembered that all pregnant women have a higher risk of blood clots compared to women who are not pregnant, and if your BMI is 30 or more the risk is additionally increased.
Another risk for obese pregnancies is the possibility of having a baby weighing more than 4kg (8lb 14oz) – the overall risk of this for women with a BMI between 20 and 30 is 7 in 100 (7%); if your BMI is over 30, your risk is doubled to 14 in 100 (14%)
These problems can also happen to any pregnant woman, whether she is overweight or not. Bear in mind that although these risks are increased if your BMI is 30 or over, most women who are overweight will have a healthy baby.
Read about ‘’Controlling my portion sizes was a quick and easy way of losing weight’’
So what weight should I be when pregnant?
A BMI of between 18 -24 is considered the Holy Grail. Being a healthy weight increases your chances of getting pregnant, staying pregnant, protecting your baby and your own wellbeing for the future.
BMI isn’t a particular weight and is personal to you. The important thing is that you don’t need to be a size 6, skinny as a rake or fit enough to run a marathon. In fact you need to eat well, exercise and get regular sleep (when you are not trying for the baby that is). It really is common sense and the biggest factor is to not stress out too much. You can find a great BMI calculator here: BMI Calculator
If you want to find out more about losing weight you can call the FORZA team on 0845 519 60 10 or email us directly on firstname.lastname@example.org
‘’I wanted to be healthy but didn’t want my diet to be boring’’