Weight Loss, Gain in First Postpartum Year Affects Health Risks

April 11, 2014

Not losing any baby weight within 1 year after delivery increases a woman’s risk of diabetes and heart disease, new research shows.

Postpartum women who do not lose their pregnancy weight within one year are at increased risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, indicates research published in the journal Diabetes Care

Pertinent Points

- A quarter of women studied not only didn’t lose weight but also gained weight, putting them at significantly increased risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

- Women who did not lose their pregnancy weight had increases in diastolic blood pressure, HOMA-IR, LDL, and apoB levels.

- Clinicians should pay special attention to the time from three months to one year postpartum.

Researchers followed 305 women in the year after giving birth and found that a quarter of them not only didn’t lose their baby weight but also gained weight and had a clear increase in risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Still, most women (74.4%) lost weight between three and 12 months postpartum.

By 12 months postpartum, clear gradients emerged between women who lost weight and those who did not, the researchers reported. Among the results, mean adjusted diastolic blood pressure, homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR), LDL cholesterol, and apolipoprotein-B (apoB) levels all significantly and progressively increased among women who did not lose weight or among those who gained weight.

"This finding helps us advise women about the importance of losing their excess pregnancy weight in the first year after delivery," said Ravi Retnakaran, MD, who conducted the study at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. "With these results, we can say that failure to lose weight between three and 12 months postpartum will cause blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin action in the body to move in an unhealthy direction."

The researchers also discovered that the elevated risk factors were not detected at three months postpartum, when many women still weighed more than their pre-pregnancy weight.

"That means that the nine-month window leading up to one year after birth is a critical time for women to ensure that they are losing at least some of their pregnancy weight," Retnakaran said.