Pregnant women are going to be encouraged to keep their weight in check under new recommendations to GPs.
Pregnant women are going to be encouraged to keep their weight in check under new recommendations to GPs.

New weight check-ins for pregnant women

PREGNANT women can expect their doctors to monitor their weight more closely in future, with new guidelines recommending expectant mothers are weighed and take part in a discussion about weight at every antenatal appointment.

Doctors will soon provide advice to pregnant women about weight, diet and physical activity and offer to weigh them, in the hope patients will make lifestyle changes leading to better health outcomes for themselves and their babies.

These changes are part of several recommended in the updated clinical guidelines for doctors providing pregnancy care, published today in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Out of all Australian women who gave birth in 2016, one in five were obese and one in four were overweight.

"Women who are overweight or obese are at increased risk of preterm birth - birth before 37 weeks - and a number of other adverse outcomes," the MJA report said.

"This provides an opportunity for clinicians to provide advice to a specific group about a modifiable risk factor that may improve health outcomes for themselves and their baby at a time when women are particularly interested and motivated to make positive changes."

These are the exact guidelines now being recommended to doctors:

"At every antenatal visit, offer women the opportunity to be weighed and encourage self-monitoring of weight gain" and "discuss weight change, diet and level of physical activity with all women."

The report says doctors can recommend patients introduce aerobic exercise such as walking 30-60 minutes a day, three to seven times a week, into their routine.

"This may help to reduce the risk of early birth in pregnant women with singleton pregnancies who are overweight or obese without any contraindications to physical activity," the report said.

The report also recommended pregnant women to be routinely tested for hepatitis C at the first antenatal visit.

Women who are diagnosed with hepatitis C early in their pregnancy can avoid invasive procedures that increase the risk of mother-to-baby transmission.

And the report recommended against continuing vitamin D status testing, because it was not supported by any evidence.