The role of postpartum weight retention in obesity among women: a review of the evidence

Ann Behav Med. 2003 Oct;26(2):149-59. doi: 10.1207/S15324796ABM2602_07.


Young, adult women appear to be at increased risk for substantial weight gain. Pregnancy has frequently been cited as a contributor to overweight in women. This article reviews the literature examining the role of pregnancy in the development of overweight. Average postpartum weight retention ranges from 0.5 to 3 kg; however, postpartum weight retention appears to be highly variable among women, with some women retaining as much as 17.7 kg. Excessive postpartum weight retention seems to be especially prevalent among minority women. Factors such as prepregnancy weight and excessive gestational weight gain have the strongest support as risk factors for postpartum weight retention and could guide targeted intervention efforts. However, there are few controlled studies of behavioral interventions to prevent substantial pregnancy-related weight gain or postpartum weight retention. Weight loss methods successful in promoting weight control in other populations would likely also be effective with pregnant or postpartum women, although modifications for the needs of mothers may be required. Particular attention to the needs of minority mothers is warranted given the likelihood of greater weight retention in this group.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavior Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Minority Groups
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy*
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking
  • Weight Gain*
  • Weight Loss