MONDAY, Nov. 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Women need to exercise and eat healthy foods during and after pregnancy in order to combat overweight and obesity and related health problems, women's health experts say.
More than half of reproductive-age women in the United States are overweight or obese, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). In pregnant women, obesity increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, cesarean delivery, stillbirth and having a baby with a birth defect, the group said in an ACOG news release.
In addition, obese pregnant women are more likely to have health problems. These issues can include heart problems, sleep apnea, gestational diabetes, blood clots in the veins and preeclampsia (marked by high blood pressure), ACOG said. And children born to obese mothers have higher odds of long-term health problems, the physician's group explained.
New ACOG guidelines advise doctors to encourage women to maintain or adopt a healthy lifestyle before, during and after pregnancy.
For obese women, even just losing a little bit of weight before pregnancy can reduce the risk of problems, the experts advised.
"Maintaining a healthy weight is important to overall health at all times, but it becomes a vital sign when a woman is pregnant or planning a pregnancy," guidelines co-author Dr. Patrick Catalano said in the news release.
The guidelines include a list of safe physical activities during pregnancy. Activities such as modified yoga and Pilates, strength training, and running or jogging are generally safe, the guidelines suggested.
"Pregnancy should not be looked at as a state of confinement," guidelines main author Dr. Raul Artal said in the news release. "In fact, it is an ideal time for lifestyle modification. That is because more than any other time in her life, a pregnant woman has the most available access to medical care and supervision."
The new guidelines are published in the December issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion outlines how to have a healthy pregnancy.