Obesity has been linked to a long list of health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and respiratory problems.

For pregnant women, obesity increases risks for gestational diabetes and for having babies of a higher birth weight. Research shows that babies who weigh more at birth are at risk for being overweight as children or adults.

What is Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes means having blood sugar levels that are too high during pregnancy. Around five percent of women in the United States develop gestational diabetes. It's more common among women who are overweight or obese. While gestational diabetes goes away after a woman gives birth, it increases her chances for developing diabetes later, and it can lead to serious complications for the baby.

Babies born to overweight or obese mothers generally weigh more than average and have higher levels of body fat. And research has demonstrated that these babies often carry their weight issues into childhood and adulthood. Some studies have even found that babies born to overweight mothers are at greater risk for developing type 1 diabetes as children.

Along with gestational diabetes, obese women tend to suffer other complications during pregnancy, including pre-eclampsia, pregnancy-induced hypertension and congenital malformation.

How Can a Woman Reduce Her Risks?

If you are overweight and plan on getting pregnant, you can reduce your risks for complications, especially by focusing on diet. Studies have shown that dietary and lifestyle interventions during pregnancy can help reduce gestational weight gain (for mother and baby). Talk to your doctor about changes you can make to produce the best pregnancy outcomes.