Composition of gestational weight gain impacts maternal fat retention and infant birth weight

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2003 Nov;189(5):1423-32. doi: 10.1067/s0002-9378(03)00596-9.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate how changes in gestational weight and body composition affect infant birth weight and maternal fat retention after delivery in underweight, normal-weight and overweight women.

Study design: We assessed the body composition of 63 women (low body mass index, 17 women; normal body mass index, 34 women; and high body mass index, 12 women) on the basis of measurements of total body nitrogen by prompt-gamma activation analysis, total body potassium by whole body counting, and a multicomponent model based on total body water by deuterium dilution, body volume by densitometry, and bone mineral content by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) before pregnancy, at 9, 22, and 36 weeks of gestation, and at 2, 6, and 27 weeks after delivery. Infant weight and length were recorded at birth; infant anthropometry and body composition by DXA were assessed at 2 and 27 weeks of age.

Results: Gestational weight gain was correlated significantly with gains in total body water, total body potassium, protein, fat-free mass, and fat mass (P=.001-.003). Gains in total body water, total body potassium, protein and fat-free mass did not differ among body mass index groups; however, fat mass gain was higher in the high body mass index group (P=.03). Birth weight was correlated positively with gain in total body water, total body potassium, and fat-free mass (P<.01), but not fat mass. Postpartum weight and fat retention were correlated positively with gestational weight gain (P=.001) and fat mass gain (P=.001) but not with total body water, total body potassium, or fat-free mass gain.

Conclusion: Appropriate, but not excessive, gestational weight gain is needed to optimize infant birth weight and minimize maternal postpartum fat retention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology*
  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Birth Weight*
  • Body Composition
  • Body Weight
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy / physiology*
  • Weight Gain*