Learning About Future Pregnancy When You Are Overweight

Female reproductive system

How can you plan for pregnancy when you are overweight?

Most pregnant women have healthy babies—and that includes women who are overweight. But being very heavy or obese does increase the chance of problems during pregnancy, labour, and delivery.

  • The baby:
    • Has a higher risk of birth defects, including heart or neural tube defects.
    • Has a higher risk of being too large. This can cause problems during labour and delivery.
  • The mother:
    • Has a higher risk of problems during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and pre-eclampsia.
    • Is more likely to have a caesarean (or C-section) birth or give birth too early.
    • Has a higher risk of miscarriage or stillbirth.

If you're not yet pregnant, now is a good time to try to lose some weight. Losing even 2.5 or 4.5 kilograms may help reduce your risk for problems.

How can you care for yourself before pregnancy?

Things to do

  • See a doctor or midwife for an examination. Talk about the medicines and natural health products you take. Talk about your health history or any concerns you have.
  • Talk to your doctor or midwife to learn what your body mass index (BMI) is. That can help you see if your weight is raising your risk for health problems.
  • See your dentist. Take care of any dental work you may need.
  • Talk with your doctor or midwife about whether to have screening tests for diseases that are passed down through your family (genetic conditions).
  • Take a daily multivitamin or prenatal vitamin that has folic acid. This B vitamin lowers the chance of having a baby with a birth defect.
  • Keep track of your menstrual cycle. This helps you know the best time to try to get pregnant. And after you are pregnant, you will have information that helps your doctor or midwife figure out when your baby is due and how it is growing.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Take only the medicines your doctor or midwife says are okay.
  • Exercise regularly. A strong body helps you handle the demands of pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery.
  • Get any vaccines your doctor or midwife recommends. That may help prevent birth defects, miscarriage, or stillbirth that can be caused by infections such as rubella. Ask your doctor or midwife how long you should wait before trying to get pregnant after you get a vaccine.

Things to avoid

  • Do not take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or aspirin, unless your doctor or midwife tells you to take them.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcoholic drinks, and illegal drugs.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can harm your baby. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor or midwife about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

What if you think you might be pregnant?

  • You can use a home pregnancy test as soon as the first day of your first missed menstrual period.
  • As soon as you know you're pregnant, check with your doctor or midwife. At your first prenatal visit you will get information on how to care for yourself and your growing baby.
  • Pregnancy is not the time to lose weight. Your baby needs you to eat a well-rounded diet. Don't go on any type of weight-loss diet.
  • Experts recommend that overweight women gain between 7 and 11.5 kilograms during pregnancy. For obese women, they recommend gaining between 5 and 9 kilograms. Your doctor or midwife will work with you to set a weight goal that's right for you.

Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

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