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New urgency to maintain healthy weight during pregnancy

As the number of overweight people who enter pregnancy soars, lifestyle coaching is a helpful way to keep mom and baby healthy.

If you’re pregnant and thinking, “How much should I eat now to keep my baby healthy?” the answer, surprisingly, is not much more than you already are.

And Kaiser Permanente’s non-judgmental coaching program for moms motivated to maintain a healthy weight while baby grows supports those who want to make a change.

“I have to say, a lot of what your grandmother said about eating for 2 is not at all accurate,” said Anne Srisuro, MD, Kaiser Permanente Northern California director of Regional Women’s Health. “It’s more like you should be eating for 1.2 and getting moderate intensity exercise on most days of the week.”

In fact, pregnant moms need only about 300 extra calories a day to keep their babies healthy, she added.

About 57% of Kaiser Permanente Northern California patients entering pregnancy in 2022 were considered overweight or obese, potentially putting their babies’ health at risk, said Dr. Srisuro. And that is an increase of 5 percentage points since 2018.

Entering pregnancy overweight or gaining too much weight during pregnancy poses a variety of risks to mom and baby including gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, and a higher chance mom may have to undergo an emergency cesarean section for babies who grow too large. In addition, babies whose moms are overweight during pregnancy have a higher chance of developing obesity, or precocious puberty.

“If you’re craving a cupcake, it does not mean baby needs that cupcake,” said Dr. Srisuro.

Wellness coaching at no cost to members

When she saw the number of overweight pregnant moms begin to rise about 5 years ago, Dr. Srisuro helped develop free wellness coaching for pregnant women specifically to address healthy eating. That program is staffed by caring coaches like Devin Sexton, who co-creates with members a realistic plan to attain their goals around weight.

“We support patients in determining their own path,” said Sexton, who holds a degree in nutritional science, a master’s degree in psychology, and who is a nationally certified health and wellness coach. “We don’t tell them to do x, y, or z. Rather, it’s collaborative in determining a plan they think is going to be most suitable.”

Wellness coaching at Kaiser Permanente involves 15- to 20-minute-long phone calls with up to 6 sessions over 6 months.

Sexton said conversations are centered around habit, behavior change, and motivation.

“The information exchange with pregnancy is really helpful to new moms,” said Sexton. “They want to know what the recommendations are for diet and exercise, which is whole food centered and about 30 minutes a day of exercise. But everyone’s success looks different. They know what feels best, and we emphasize small steps.”

Dr. Srisuro said pregnant moms are generally motivated to keep their babies’ healthy, and the coaching is key.

“Pregnancy is really a motivating factor for lifestyle change,” she said. “They learn during the coaching that getting to a healthy weight can decrease the chances of developing a lot of those complications.”

To sign up for wellness coaching, schedule an appointment.



maternal healthobesityTotal Health

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