British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

A longitudinal study of maternal anthropometric changes in normal weight, overweight and obese women during pregnancy and postpartum

Hora Soltania1 c1 and Robert B. Frasera1

a1 University Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Clinical Sciences Centre, Northern General Hospital, Sheffield S5 7AU, UK


Many women associate one or more of their pregnancies with the development of adult obesity. Such an association has not been fully explored. This longitudinal study examines the changes in maternal anthropometric indices during pregnancy and postpartum. Seventy-seven pregnant subjects were investigated longitudinally at about 13, 25 and 36 weeks gestation, of whom forty-seven continued taking part into the postpartum period. Maternal weight, height and skinfold thickness (triceps, biceps, subscapular, suprailiac and mid thigh) were measured at each visit. Maternal fat mass was estimated from the conversion of the first four skinfold thicknesses. Maternal waist and hip circumferences were also measured at the first visit and 6 weeks and 6 months postpartum. Weight and fat gain during pregnancy (13–36 weeks gestation) was 10·9 (SD 4·7) KG AND 4·6 (sd 3·3) kg (P < 0·001) respectively. A significant increase in fat mass from 13 weeks gestation to 6-months postpartum was observed (2·6 (sd 4·5), P < 0·001). The increased weight at 6-months postpartum, however, was not statistically significant (1·1 (sd 6·0) kg, P = 0·20). Based on BMI in early pregnancy, the subjects were divided into groups of underweight, normal weight, overweight and obese. The last three groups were compared using ANOVA. The obese group showed a significant difference in the pattern of changes in the skinfold thickness, waist: hip ratio and fat mass at the postpartum period, in comparison with the other two groups. In conclusion, there is a tendency in the obese group to develop central obesity at the postpartum period.

(Received May 05 1999)

(Revised October 01 1999)

(Accepted November 25 1999)


† East Riding Health Authority, Grange Park Lane, Willerby, East Yorkshire HU10 6DT, UK, fax +44 (0) 1482 6720062, email [email protected]