According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity has reached "epidemic proportions" in the world.
More than half of the world's population could suffer from obesity by 2035. That's more than four billion people according to the World Fatness Atlas 2023.
Accordingly, the number of overweight pregnant women has increased significantly worldwide. In the United States, for example, about two-thirds of women are overweight at the beginning of pregnancy.
"In Germany, we are moving more and more in that direction," says Regina Enzenauer, who heads the department for child nutrition at the Max Rubner Institute in Karlsruhe.
In Germany, according to the data of a federal study, almost 44 percent of women start pregnancy overweight or obese. In 2014, it was 35 percent of young mothers.
Harm to children
If the mother is overweight, it can have a direct impact on the unborn child. Regina Enzenauer says that even embryos get the wrong biological imprint because they have to adapt to excessive nutrition during development in the womb.
The first thousand days are crucial - from the beginning of pregnancy to the end of the second year of life - emphasizes the scientist. "During that time, it is also determined what the child will love later. The taste buds are fully functional early in development, and the fetus absorbs substances from the mother's diet through the amniotic fluid."
The offspring of overweight pregnant women are therefore more likely to gain weight themselves and develop secondary diseases such as diabetes or heart problems at an early stage, a professor of medicine at the University of Düsseldorf told the German news agency dpa.
Excess body weight is a risk for mother and child
Overweight mothers have an increased risk of developing type 4 diabetes, and the child may also develop diabetes due to excessive nutrition.
In addition, the risk of pregnancy-related diseases increases significantly in overweight women. These include poisoning in pregnancy (preeclampsia), thrombosis or pregnancy-related high blood pressure.
In addition, the probability of spontaneous abortions and premature births, as well as caesarean sections, increases significantly because children of overweight women are often born with a higher birth weight.
Healthy weight gain during pregnancy
Significant weight gain during pregnancy is normal and important in order to provide sufficient nutrients to mother and child. But the expectant mother does not have to "eat for two", as she is often advised.
Pregnant women only need about ten percent more calories per day than before pregnancy.
Women of normal weight gain an average of 11,5 to 16 kilograms during pregnancy.
A baby at birth weighs on average about 3.500 grams, the placenta weighs about 650 grams, the uterus about 1.300 grams. The additional amount of blood weighs about 1.250 grams, amniotic fluid about 1.000 grams. Additional fat deposits weigh about 1.700 grams, and accumulated fluids about 2.000 grams.
That's a total of about 11.400 grams, which is why pregnant women are recommended to gain a maximum of twelve kilograms during pregnancy. If they gain more than 20 kilograms, the cause is often improper or excessive nutrition. Therefore, women should regularly monitor their weight gain during pregnancy.