How Does BMI Affect Your Pregnancy?

Written by Tidewater Physicians For Women on .
How Does BMI Affect Your Pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a joyful and rewarding experience. It can also be emotionally and physically taxing on any woman and BMI plays a crucial role. When you consider how a high BMI can affect the process, pregnancy can include additional challenges and risks for the process and the baby. If you are pregnant and have a high BMI that places you in the overweight or obese category, there may be some added strain to your pregnancy.

While a high BMI can add a greater risk of complications to a pregnancy, it does not mean that a pregnancy will necessarily be unhealthy. Knowing the risks beforehand can make it easier for pregnant women and their doctors to develop a positive plan to move forward. If you have a high BMI and are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, a high BMI doesn’t mean you can’t have a good chance for a healthy baby. Consult with one of our obstetricians at Tidewater Physicians for Women and learn how BMI could affect your pregnancy.

What is BMI, and How is it Calculated?

BMI, or body mass index, is a calculation of a person’s body weight divided by the square of their height. With this measurement, it can generally be determined whether a person is overweight. Remember that this does not necessarily correlate with an individual’s health. Instead, it places you in a category that generally aligns with risks for future health problems. For example, someone who is in the obesity category according to their BMI would tend to have a higher chance of conditions like hypertension, stroke, obstructive sleep apnea, and type 2 diabetes.

While BMI is used for general assumptions, it is important to remember that everyone is different. This figure alone is not enough to make useful, accurate predictions about your potential health risks. This is why you must speak with your doctor about your personal health risks, as there are many more factors other than BMI that contribute to pregnancy outcomes.

What BMI is Considered High For Women?

There are four categories of BMI based on the formula of weight divided by height squared.

  • Obese: 30 or above
  • Overweight: 25-29.9
  • Healthy weight: 18.5-24.9
  • Underweight: less than 18.5

What Are the Risks for a Pregnant Woman with a High BMI?

When a woman with a high BMI becomes pregnant, there tend to be increased risks. For example, overweight women who get pregnant have a more significant decrease in insulin sensitivity, along with other issues that pregnant women with a lower BMI are not as prone to.

doctor checking blood pressure

Gestational Hypertension

Gestational hypertension is a type of high blood pressure that occurs during the second half of a pregnancy. This condition can lead to serious complications, and it tends to be more prevalent among pregnant women with a high BMI that indicates obesity.

Gestational Diabetes

Some women experience insulin resistance during pregnancy, leading to what is known as gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes mellitus. This is a condition in which women become diabetic for the duration of their pregnancy and then become non-diabetic after the pregnancy is over. A high BMI that indicates obesity can increase the risk of this condition, so you may have to monitor your blood sugar.


Preeclampsia is a more severe form of gestational hypertension that can happen in the second half of pregnancy or shortly after childbirth. Preeclampsia can cause your liver and kidneys to fail, and rare cases even involve sufferers having a stroke or heart attack. Maternal obesity increases the risk of preeclampsia.

Cesarean Deliveries

When a pregnant woman is obese, they can face more difficulties during labor. Difficult labor increases the likelihood of a cesarean delivery, and despite its necessity in certain situations, C-sections tend to be more dangerous for obese and overweight women.

Increased Chance of Stillborn

Due to several factors working together, a higher BMI tends to correlate with a higher risk of stillbirth. However, a high BMI alone does not lead to stillbirth. From birth defects to nutritional deficiencies, all sorts of factors can cause a stillbirth.

Venous Thromboembolism (VTE)

Venous thromboembolism, or a blood clot, is something that everyone is at risk for, but pregnancy increases that risk fivefold compared to women who aren’t pregnant. Obesity also increases the risk of VTE, so having a high BMI that indicates obesity and pregnant at the same time can significantly increase your risk of a blood clot.

What Are the Risks of a High BMI Pregnancy For the Baby?

In addition to risks for the pregnant woman, a high BMI that indicates obesity also poses risks for the baby.

Premature Birth

Some conditions that pregnant women with high BMIs are more prone to can lead to a preterm birth. Premature babies are at an increased risk of health problems in both the long term and short term.

Birth Defects

Birth defects, or congenital conditions, occur from a variety of different sources, but babies born to women with high BMI that indicates obesity tend to be more prone to these issues. Some of these defects can include heart defects and neural tube defects.

Cognitive Problems

Troubles with any pregnancy can lead to cognitive problems for the baby, as the brain or the surrounding parts may not develop properly. Obesity can exacerbate these conditions.


Macrosomia is a condition in which the fetus is much larger than normal. This poses a risk to the mother during labor and can put the baby at a greater risk for a high BMI that indicates obesity as they grow older.

Is Weight Loss During Pregnancy Safe?

When you are experiencing a pregnancy while overweight, your body is already going to have some extra calories stored away. That being the case, losing weight safely is possible in many circumstances.

First, talk with your healthcare provider to rule out other contributing factors, and follow their advice for safe weight loss practices. Remember, these are just general trends, and everyone’s body will be different and unique.

Safest Exercises to Lose Weight During Pregnancy

pregnant woman with yoga ball

Being pregnant often makes women feel unwilling to exercise. Simple day-to-day activities while pregnant can be tiring for many, which is entirely normal. Still, some exercises are possible while pregnant and can help you lose weight safely. Remember that anything that could harm the baby should be avoided. That means no contact sports of any kind. Speak with your doctor first to determine what exercises you should do.

What is a Healthy Amount of Weight to Gain During Pregnancy?

Gestational weight gain is fairly common during pregnancy, but the amount considered healthy will vary based on the person. For a woman with a high BMI that indicates obesity, up to 20 pounds may be considered normal weight gain, though some women don’t gain weight at all during their pregnancy. This figure is, of course, increased further in cases of multiple births, such as twins or triplets. Speak with your doctor to understand your unique situation and discuss healthy gestational weight gain.

How to Improve Your Chances of Having a Safe and Healthy Pregnancy

A few tips can generally increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy, but you should always talk to your provider for more details on what would be best for your unique circumstances.

Prenatal Care

Antenatal or prenatal care is one of the best ways to ensure you do everything possible for a healthy pregnancy. Even when you feel completely fine, attending every recommended prenatal visit is still beneficial. Typically, this entails around 15 visits throughout the entire pregnancy, though risk factors like a high BMI that indicates obesity may warrant more.

Talk with your OB/GYN

Only your OB/GYN can tell you what you need to do specifically to give your pregnancy the best chance to be healthy. Everyone’s body is different, and a personal obstetrician or doctor is the only way to understand what your unique body needs. Plus, they can recommend relevant supplements like vitamin B for folic acid or anything else you may require.

Eat Healthy

Healthy eating is a great way to support your pregnancy. While indulging in the unusual foods you may crave isn’t a problem, it is important to monitor and reduce your overall glucose, salt, and fat consumption. Colorful fruits, fresh vegetables, and lean proteins are typical elements of a great healthy diet.

Be Active

Exercise may be the last thing on your mind while pregnant, but it can be helpful to get into a routine. Regular physical activity during pregnancy can reduce the risk of some of the conditions that obesity can exacerbate. Speak with your doctor to determine the most appropriate physical activity plan for you.

Managing Your Weight Postpartum

mother kissing baby

After you give birth, you will likely experience immediate weight loss. This is normal, but it is also normal to see that weight loss progress decreases in the aftermath. In some cases, you may even have postpartum weight retention (PPWR). This is a condition in which the pregnancy weight does not go away after giving birth.

Why Hampton Roads Residents Choose Us

Approach your pregnancy with confidence. Take a look at how some of our past patients benefited from our obstetrics and gynecology services.

“Dr. De Grand was very accommodating I felt at ease discussing my plans for pregnancy and home birth and she was great at answering all of our questions.” — Bri D.

“I have been coming to Tidewater for 16 years. I can’t say enough about Dr. Morgan and his team! They have seen me through annual exams, pregnancies, deliveries, pregnancy losses, surgeries, and mental health care. You are so valued and cared for here, and are surely more than a number.” — Lauren S.

Plan Your Pregnancy and Know the Risks

Being overweight or having a high BMI that indicates obesity does not necessarily mean that you cannot have a healthy pregnancy. With help from Tidewater Physicians for Women, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing you’re doing everything you can for a healthy pregnancy with professionals from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

At Tidewater Physicians for Women, we offer a variety of obstetric services that you could benefit from while pregnant, including the following:

  • Prenatal screenings and tests
  • Evaluating the health of the baby
  • Searching for congenital anomalies or potential pregnancy complications
  • Monitoring the pregnancy via ultrasound, urinalysis, and blood tests
  • Treating health conditions that could affect the pregnancy
  • Managing labor and providing interventions when necessary
  • Providing postpartum care (postpartum depression, breastfeeding, etc.)

Becoming pregnant while overweight or having a high BMI that indicates obesity is considered a high-risk pregnancy, but our team of physicians and medical professionals can help minimize the risks as much as possible with a focus on your unique needs. Schedule an appointment today by calling 757-461-3890 to speak with a team member about your pregnancy or pre-pregnancy.

Tidewater Physicians For Women

Written By Tidewater Physicians For Women

Tidewater Physicians For Women
Tidewater Physicians for Women is a division of Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care with offices in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Virginia. Our practice takes comprehensive care to a higher level with a large team of experienced and qualified physicians, nurse practitioners, and two licensed counselors.
Tidewater Physicians for Women
a division of Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care
VA Beach

828 Healthy Way Unit 330
Virginia Beach, VA 23462

Fax: 757-467-0301


844 Kempsville Road #208
Norfolk, VA 23502

Fax: 757-461-0836

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