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Interventions for preventing excessive weight gain during pregnancy

Muktabhant B, Lumbiganon P, Ngamjarus C, Dowswell T
Published Online: 
18 April 2012

A large proportion of women gain more weight than is recommended during pregnancy. Excessive weight gain increases the risk of complications for both the mother and her infant. These include miscarriage, development of diabetes mellitus or pregnancy-induced hypertension, a high birthweight infant and the likelihood of caesarean section. We reviewed 28 randomised controlled studies that involving more than 3000 women, mostly from developed countries, to assess the effectiveness of interventions for preventing excessive weight gain during pregnancy (27 of the studies with 3964 women contributed data to the analyses). Results on preventing excessive weight gain during pregnancy were limited to studies that included this as an outcome. There were five interventions in the general population and two interventions in high-risk groups which seemed to reduce average weight gain during pregnancy. Few studies looked at excessive weight gain during pregnancy and only one of the interventions they used resulted in significantly reduced rates of excessive weight gain. It is not appropriate for us to recommend any one intervention for preventing excessive weight gain during pregnancy because most of the studies identified were of poor quality and the effects of the interventions were generally small. There is an urgent need for more well-designed studies with adequate sample sizes to be able to recommend effective interventions.