Background: Around 50% of women of childbearing age are either overweight [body mass index (BMI) 25-29.9 kg/m(2)] or obese (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m(2)). The antenatal period provides an opportunity to manage weight in pregnancy. This has the potential to reduce maternal and fetal complications associated with excess weight gain and obesity.
Objectives: To evaluate the effectiveness of dietary and lifestyle interventions in reducing or preventing obesity in pregnancy and to assess the beneficial and adverse effects of the interventions on obstetric, fetal and neonatal outcomes.
Data sources: Major electronic databases including MEDLINE, EMBASE, BIOSIS and Science Citation Index were searched (1950 until March 2011) to identify relevant citations. Language restrictions were not applied.
Review methods: Systematic reviews of the effectiveness and harm of the interventions were carried out using a methodology in line with current recommendations. Studies that evaluated any dietary, physical activity or mixed approach intervention with the potential to influence weight change in pregnancy were included. The quality of the studies was assessed using accepted contemporary standards. Results were summarised as pooled relative risks (RRs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for dichotomous data. Continuous data were summarised as mean difference (MD) with standard deviation. The quality of the overall evidence synthesised for each outcome was summarised using GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation) methodology and reported graphically as a two-dimensional chart.
Results: A total of 88 studies (40 randomised and 48 non-randomised and observational studies, involving 182,139 women) evaluated the effect of weight management interventions in pregnancy on maternal and fetal outcomes. Twenty-six studies involving 468,858 women reported the adverse effect of the interventions. Meta-analysis of 30 RCTs (4503 women) showed a reduction in weight gain in the intervention group of 0.97 kg compared with the control group (95% CI -1.60 kg to -0.34 kg; p = 0.003). Weight management interventions overall in pregnancy resulted in a significant reduction in the incidence of pre-eclampsia (RR 0.74, 95% CI 0.59 to 0.92; p = 0.008) and shoulder dystocia (RR 0.39, 95% CI 0.22 to 0.70; p = 0.02). Dietary interventions in pregnancy resulted in a significant decrease in the risk of pre-eclampsia (RR 0.67, 95% CI 0.53 to 0.85; p = 0.0009), gestational hypertension (RR 0.30, 95% CI 0.10 to 0.88; p = 0.03) and preterm birth (RR 0.68, 95% CI 0.48 to 0.96; p = 0.03) and showed a trend in reducing the incidence of gestational diabetes (RR 0.52, 95% CI 0.27 to 1.03). There were no differences in the incidence of small-for-gestational-age infants between the groups (RR 0.99, 95% CI 0.76 to 1.29). There were no significant maternal or fetal adverse effects observed for the interventions in the included trials. The overall strength of evidence for weight gain in pregnancy and birthweight was moderate for all interventions considered together. There was high-quality evidence for small-for-gestational-age infants as an outcome. The quality of evidence for all interventions on pregnancy outcomes was very low to moderate. The quality of evidence for all adverse outcomes was very low.
Limitations: The included studies varied in the reporting of population, intensity, type and frequency of intervention and patient complience, limiting the interpretation of the findings. There was significant heterogeneity for the beneficial effect of diet on gestational weight gain.
Conclusions: Interventions in pregnancy to manage weight result in a significant reduction in weight gain in pregnancy (evidence quality was moderate). Dietary interventions are the most effective type of intervention in pregnancy in reducing gestational weight gain and the risks of pre-eclampsia, gestational hypertension and shoulder dystocia. There is no evidence of harm as a result of the dietary and physical activity-based interventions in pregnancy. Individual patient data meta-analysis is needed to provide robust evidence on the differential effect of intervention in various groups based on BMI, age, parity, socioeconomic status and medical conditions in pregnancy.