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27-07-2010 | General practice | Article

Weight control urged for mothers-to-be



Women planning or expecting a baby should be warned about the risks of obesity to both their own and the baby's health, and that there is no need to "eat for two" when pregnant, according to new guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

"This new guidance is about helping health professionals to help women have a healthy pregnancy," said Professor Mike Kelly, NICE director for Public Health Excellence.

"About half of women of childbearing age are either overweight or obese and although obese women can have healthy babies, the evidence does suggest that there are more risks associated with pregnancies in women who have a body mass index [BMI] of over 30 when they become pregnant."

The guidance provides recommendations on weight management before, during and after pregnancy. Of note, GPs should use any opportunity to advise women who are preparing for pregnancy and have a BMI of 30 or more about the benefits of losing weight.

For pregnant women with a BMI of 30 or more, they should advise about the risk this poses, but not tell them to diet. These women should be referred to a dietitian or other specialist who will provide support and personalised advice on healthy eating and physical activity.

And women should be supported with clear, consistent, up-to-date and timely advice on how to lose weight safely after childbirth, from the 6-8-week postnatal check onwards. For obese women this may involve a structured weight-loss programme or if more appropriate, referral to a specialist.

Professor Steve Field, Chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners said: "GPs and GP practices have a crucial role in maternity care that begins preconception and continues right through to postnatal support, advice and care. The GP is there to support the patient and their family.

"There is much conflicting information, particularly in the media, about what constitutes a healthy weight for a woman during and after pregnancy, and I welcome any guidance that can offer prospective and new mothers comprehensive direction and clarity."

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Caroline Price