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A pregnant woman reclining on the sofa eating a snackAccording to a new study, expected mothers gaining 40 pounds or more during pregnancy results in 9 pound or more babies and increasing health risks for both the mother and child.

Excessive pregnancy weight gain and big babies have often been linked, says Teresa Hillier, MD, senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Portland, Ore., and the study’s lead author. Researchers have also known that women who develop diabetes during pregnancy, called gestational diabetes, are more likely to deliver heavier babies, Hillier states.

But the new study is believed the first to conclude that women who gain excessive weight during pregnancy are even more likely to have heavier babies than women treated for gestational diabetes who don’t gain excess weight.

“More than one in five women gain too much weight during pregnancy and only 5% have gestational diabetes,” Hillier tells states. The study, she says, points to the need for all women to follow recommendations about not gaining excessive amounts of weight.

Pregnancy Weight Gain & Big Babies: Study Details

Hillier and her colleagues followed 41,540 women who gave birth to singleton babies in Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii from 1995 through 2003. They used patient medical records and birth certificates to note the mother’s weight gain and the baby’s birth weight.

All mothers-to-be were screened for gestational diabetes.

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