Keeping "baby weight" increases health risk for moms

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Faced with the challenges of raising an infant, many new mothers often put their own health on the backburner.  That includes working to lose any weight gained during pregnancy.  However, a new study that followed more than 300 women, shows that moms who do not lose their baby weight or gain weight within a year of giving birth increase their risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Local experts at Woman's Hospital were not surprised by the results.

"That weight gain is critical in terms of pushing that patient from a gestational diabetic to a real diabetic, to being a full blown type II diabetic. We can prevent that by taking that weight off," said Woman's Research Director Dr. Karen Elkind-Hirsch.

Currently Woman's Hospital has several studies looking at the importance of proper nutrition before, during and after pregnancy, as well as preventing and treating gestational diabetes.  For more information on those studies, click here.

Researchers here say it is not a matter of losing the weight quickly with a fad diet, but learning how to live a healthy lifestyle after pregnancy and beyond.  In fact, not gaining enough weight during pregnancy or losing too much after can be just as harmful.

"To reduce the risk of getting type 2 diabetes later in your life you really have to take charge of your health and get back to that healthy body weight that you were at before pregnancy," said registered dietician and diabetes educator Sara Nelms.

Elkind-Hirsch and Nelms say continuing nutritional counseling after giving birth can help reestablish a healthy lifestyle for the whole family.

"Asking someone to cope with a new infant and change their life and not sleep, it's really, really difficult. That is why I'm looking for medical therapies to kind of jump start things, get you through that first year," said Elkind-Hirsch.

The National Institute on Health has new guidelines on what is considered healthy weight gain for women based on their weight before pregnancy.  Also, what is considered healthy weight loss can vary.  It is best to talk to your doctor about setting weight goals.

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