Oklahoma, www.OK.gov <{$map[0].NAME}>

Contact  |  A-Z Health Index  |  Events & Meetings

get adobe reader

FOR RELEASE: October 12 2006
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications

Pre-Pregnancy Weight Can Impact Health Outcomes for Mom and Baby

Having a healthy body weight before pregnancy can help women avoid costly and potentially serious pregnancy-related complications, say public health officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).

Overweight and obese women who become pregnant often require more health care resources than women with normal body weight for height according to an analysis of Oklahoma Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) survey data for years 2000 – 2003. PRAMS is a population-based study of maternal behaviors and experiences before, during and after pregnancy.

Weight for height categories were determined by calculating body mass index, or BMI, according to the Institute of Medicine standards for pregnant women. The PRAMS study reviewed BMI levels for pre-pregnant women in the categories: Normal (19.8-25.9), Overweight (26-28.9), and Obese (29+). For example, a woman who is 5’4’’ and weighs 175 pounds has a BMI of 30 and is obese. Underweight women with a BMI less than 19.8 were excluded from this study.

The PRAMS study recommends that women who wish to become pregnant should be at a normal BMI prior to pregnancy to optimize the health outcomes for themselves and their infants. Being obese (BMI 29+) can lead to problems during pregnancy like gestational diabetes and hypertension. In addition, obese women are the most likely to have a cesarean section, which can carry its own health risks. Obesity prior to pregnancy may also mean longer and more costly hospital stays due to these complications and an increased risk of admission to neonatal intensive care units for infants.

Some of the key findings of the PRAMS survey indicate the following:

  • The number of women overweight and obese in Oklahoma before they become pregnant is increasing. From 1996 to 2003, the number of women in Oklahoma who were overweight and prior to pregnancy increased 43.1 percent and those who were obese increased 15.3 percent.
  • One-third of all Oklahoma mothers were classified as either overweight (BMI 26-28.9) or obese (BMI 29 or greater) before they became pregnant (2000-2003).
  • Prior to pregnancy, almost 13 percent of women were overweight and 20 percent were obese.
  • Those most likely to be obese were women who were American Indian, 25-29 years of age, or were married.
  • Obese women were more likely to experience high blood pressure or edema, high blood sugar and cesarean sections than women in the normal weight category.

OSDH public health officials recommend the following:

  • All women in Oklahoma should be at a normal BMI prior to pregnancy to minimize health risks for themselves and their infants.
  • Every health care provider visit for a woman of childbearing age should be viewed as an opportunity to discuss healthy eating habits and physical activity.
  • Increase public and private health insurance coverage for women with low incomes to improve access to preventative women’s health and family planning.
  • Every woman leaving a family planning visit should know her BMI and how it affects her health.
  • Encourage ways to develop or continue healthy eating habits and physical activities to avoid unnecessary weight gain for women transitioning from high school to college or to the work environment.
  • Promote breastfeeding for postpartum weight loss, Type II diabetes prevention for mother and child, and to decrease the child’s risk of obesity as an adult.
  • Support breastfeeding mothers in the workplace through the OSDH Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite Recognition Project.
  • Partner with programs like WIC, Smart Start, and Children First to reach families with very young children to encourage healthy eating habits and lifestyle behaviors.
  • Get involved with your local Turning Point Council to identify ways to help increase health and physical activity in your community.
  • Advocate for healthier communities designed with physical activity in mind to include bike paths, sidewalks, parks and playgrounds.

For more information about maternal and child health related to BMI weight, contact Nancy Bacon, MCH Consultant, at 405-271-4471. To calculate your own BMI, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s BMI calculator at: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/index.htm. For more information on other PRAMS studies, visit this Web site: http://www.health.ok.gov/program/mchp&e/pramarch.html.


Creating a State of Health Logo