In Brief

Why pregnant women are facing weigh-ins again

Routine checks were phased out in early 1990s over concerns of stress to expectant mothers

Midwives are calling for women to be given official targets for how much weight they should gain during pregnancy, amid fears that piling on the pounds may have harmful effects on unborn children.

Regular weigh-ins were phased out in Britain in the 1990s after “it was suggested that they cause pregnant women unnecessary anxiety for little or no clinical gain”, says the BBC.

But in what The Times describes as “a clear shift in approach”, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) now wants weight gain limits to be dictated. The U-turn comes after a new study suggested that too much or too little weight gain by mothers could lead to babies growing into unhealthy children.

Researchers found that seven-year-old children whose mothers had gained excessive amounts of weight while pregnant tended to have high blood pressure and body fat levels, and to show signs of greater insulin resistance - a symptom of diabetes. 

Mums-to-be who did not gain enough weight also tended to have kids with blood pressure and sugar issues, plus stunted growth.

The researchers, from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, studied 905 women and their children, and have published their findings in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. 

The scientists say the study “proves a need to monitor maternal nutrition and physical activity”, reports The Sun.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) is considering guidance that would set pregnancy weight gain targets of 2st 7lb (16kg) for women who start out at an average weight, and 1st 6lb (9kg) for those who are obese.

Mandy Forrester, the RCM’s head of quality and standards, says that some UK midwives are already using weight guidelines, but that others do not have access to weighing scales.

“There is a clear need for midwives to have the tools, guidance and training they need so they can offer women the best possible support and care. This is especially pressing because of the potentially serious complications that can arise in pregnancy as a result of women being overweight or obese,” Forrester said.

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