It's recommended that obese women gain no more than 11 to 20 pounds during pregnancy to avoid health complications in both baby and mother. By the end of their pregnancies, women who got counseling had added about 23 pounds to their weight, compared to nearly 30 among women getting standard care.
"The difference was quite big," said Dr. Roland Devlieger, head of obstetrics and fetal medicine at University Hospitals KU Leuven in Belgium. It's estimated that about 30 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. and 10 percent in Belgium are obese. Excessive pounds during pregnancy can increase the risks of health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure among women and birth defects among babies.
According to Devlieger, previous studies focusing on diet and exercise to cut weight gain in expectant moms have not always shown an impact. He suggested the success of the counseling program is "related to the intensity of the follow-up and also that we very much focused on motivation."
In the Belgian study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, 205 obese pregnant women were randomly assigned to get either routine prenatal care, a brochure on healthy lifestyle or motivational counseling on nutrition, exercise and weight gain.