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Weight gain difficult to influence through lifestyle counseling

How can weight gain during pregnancy be optimized?

Weigh gain during pregnancy could pose a problem for both the mother and child. It could even lead to gestational diabetes, an increased risk of cesarean section or excessive birth weight of the newborn. As a solution, regular counseling appointments have been proposed.

In a new study, a team of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in collaboration with the Competence Center for Nutrition (Kern) has suggested that the counseling appointments as part of routine prenatal care can encourage a healthier lifestyle, it does not reduce weight gain.

The main objective of the Bavarian Healthy Living in Pregnancy Study (GeliS) was to make pregnant women more aware of the problem and to improve their dietary behavior and physical activity. More than 70 medical and midwife practices in Bavaria participated in the study.

Almost 2286 women were included in the study. During the study, they received three counseling sessions (30−45 minutes each) from the 12th week of their pregnancy. They also followed another consultation several weeks after childbirth as part of their preventive check-ups.

Moreover, they had been provided with additional information material as well as forms that allowed them to independently record and monitor their weight gain and physical activity. The control group only received the information material.

Study Director Professor Hans Hauner, Professor of Nutritional Medicine at the TUM, explains the initial findings: “Unfortunately, the counseling concept proved unsuccessful and had no measurable effect on maternal weight gain. Despite the counseling, over 45 percent of the participants gained more weight than recommended by the international standard of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) − over 14 kilograms on average. Nor did the counseling lead to a reduction in complications such as gestational diabetes, hypertension or premature labor.”

“Nevertheless, we found some positive effects: An initial look at the extended data shows that many pregnant women did, in fact, pay close attention to their diet and exercised regularly. In addition, more than 85 percent of women continued the program to the end and readily took the advice they received to heart. Evidently, that was not enough to reduce their weight gain.”

“What we saw, however, was a reduction in the size and weight of the babies of the women who participated in the program. That, too, is a small but important achievement. We also recommend that counseling sessions be started before the 12th week of pregnancy.”

“A special feature of the study was the fact that the counseling sessions were integrated into routine prenatal check-ups. It is the largest study in the world to use this approach. It was important to us that the concept be suitable for routine use.”

“The pregnant women did not have to appear for any additional appointments, and the effort on the part of the doctors and midwives was well defined. Only such solutions are practicable. Numerous studies have looked after and monitored pregnant women with the help of separate regular appointments. Even if that has a positive effect, it’s not a practical solution for all pregnant women − and that should be the goal.”


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