Meanwhile, in a study that has been described as 'disturbing' by weight loss groups, babies will be given a diet drug in the womb. One hundred obese pregnant women will be given Metformin as part of a three-year study. The drug will reduce the food supply to their unborn babies, although it will not help the women themselves to lose weight.
Metformin reduces blood sugar levels, which are passed onto babies in the womb.
According to the Telegraph:
"Doctors hope it will prevent the birth of oversized babies, thereby reducing the need for caesarean sections. Instances of pre-eclampsia, the potentially fatal complication in pregnancy common to overweight mothers, are also hoped to be reduced."
Just this month a California woman gave birth to an over 14-pound baby -- a size that is still very much an anomaly. However, with rising rates of obesity and diabetes among pregnant women, larger birth weight babies are becoming more commonplace.
Just as low birth weight babies can face unique health challenges, so too can large birth weight babies. Aside from increasing the chances of a Cesarean delivery, a baby that has a high birth weight (generally defined as more than 8 pounds, 8 ounces) may have an increased risk of:
- Obesity as an adult
- Fetal death
- Postneonatal death (infant deaths that occur from 4 weeks to 1 year of age)
- Asthma and allergies
Gestational age, weight gain in pregnancy, obesity, and gestational diabetes may all impact a baby's birth weight -- and sometimes babies are born big for no obvious reason at all. Ideally, achieving the best birth outcomes involves leading a healthy lifestyle that prevents obesity and gestational diabetes, which are two major risk factors for oversized babies.
Unfortunately, a new study is being conducted by researchers at Liverpool Women's Hospital that is going to attempt to prevent the birth of oversized babies by giving them anti-obesity drugs while still in the womb.
Outrageous: Now They're Giving Drugs in the Womb
The nine months of development that take place in the womb are the most rapid and most vulnerable period of your baby's life. For this reason, it is generally best to avoid taking any medications unless absolutely necessary; most medications have never been tested on pregnant women and their effects on a developing baby are completely unknown.
This new strategy is tragically egregious because in my mind it is very clear that the primary culprit for the obesity epidemic is the over consumption of fructose. As long as levels are kept below 25 grams per day it is typically fine, but the AVERAGE intake is 300% higher than that and fructose is clearly the number one source of calories in the US.
This type of irrational recommendation is akin to asking drivers to use their brakes to slow down their car while they have their foot on the accelerator. Will it work? Most likely, many will see acute benefit, but since it in no way, shape or form addresses the cause the risk CLEARLY outweighs any benefits.
Even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges that very little is known about the impacts of most medications on unborn babies:
"We do not have enough information about the effects of many medications when they are taken by pregnant women … All prescription and over-the-counter medications are tested to see if they are safe and effective before they become available to the public. Pregnant women usually are not included in these tests because of the possible risks to the unborn baby.
As a result, little information is available about the safety of most medications during pregnancy—including those available over the counter—when they first become available."
Despite this, a new three-year study is going to involve giving obese pregnant women the drug Metformin (brand name Glucophage) up to three times a day from 12 weeks gestation forward to see if it will prevent large babies. This drug, which reduces blood sugar levels, is a common treatment for diabetics, including during pregnancy, and researchers say it is safe in pregnancy.
However, the package insert for the drug says otherwise:
"Because animal reproduction studies are not always predictive of human response, GLUCOPHAGE and GLUCOPHAGE XR should not be used during pregnancy unless clearly needed.
There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women with GLUCOPHAGE or GLUCOPHAGE XR."
In other words, only animal studies have been conducted so far, so no one knows for sure what impact this medication has on a developing baby. Despite this, women are now being used as guinea pigs to prevent possibly having a larger than average baby. The package insert plainly states that Metformin should not be used during pregnancy "unless clearly needed" -- and obese women are not in need of this drug.
Healthy Diet, Not Medication, is Best to Prevent Obese Babies
A far better solution to preventing "obese" babies would be for the women to optimize their weight before becoming pregnant, or if this is not possible, to adhere to a healthy diet and exercise program during the pregnancy.
But the study's lead researcher obviously believes this is asking too much of women.
He says in the Telegraph:
"The difficulty comes when you have been living in a particular way for years that is not healthy. To suddenly change to a different lifestyle is not easy to do … Lifestyle change takes time and we would always encourage this as well but the use of Metformin gives us another option when the other is not realistic."
It is my belief that many women would be more than willing to make changes to their diets once they were armed with the knowledge of how important it is to do so. For instance, researchers found that rat fetuses that received poor nutrition while in the womb experienced epigenetic changes that primed them for a nutrition-poor environment once they were born, thereby increasing their risk of health problems ranging from diabetes and heart disease to obesity.
Previous research has shown that these changes can last for two generations or more, meaning that even what your grandmother ate during pregnancy can have an impact on your health now.
Fortunately, while a poor diet in pregnancy can cause health problems for a child down the road, the opposite also holds true in that a healthy diet can help prevent health issues, even ones that you may have been predisposed to.
In one study from a few years ago, mice that were predisposed to obesity, diabetes and cancer grew up healthy because their mothers were fed supplements that blocked the genetic trigger. This lends amazing credence to the power you have to take control of your -- and your unborn baby's -- health.
Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy and Childbirth
Ideally, you should strive to be in the best shape possible before becoming pregnant, as obesity can and does have very real risks during pregnancy, including the risk of having a large birth weight baby (and increasing your risk of diabetes, which also raises your risk of having a big baby).
But please realize that taking medication cannot come close to providing the benefits that a healthy lifestyle can for your unborn child. In addition to eating right and exercising regularly, a healthy pre-, during and post-pregnancy lifestyle includes:
- Making sure you keep your fructose level under 25 grams per day. There is enormous emerging evidence of the danger of excess fructose ingestion. It will increase insulin and leptin resistance and also radically increase total inflammation in your body, which can cause pregnancy complications. So please be sure and count your fructose grams and keep your uric acid level under 5.5.
- Taking a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat, such as krill oil. One of the most important dietary influences on your prenatal health is adequate omega-3 fats. Most women have major deficiencies of this fat, and given the statistics, it’s very possible you do too.
Optimizing your omega-3 intake will not only virtually guarantee that your baby will be full term, but it is so essential to a child's development that if a mother and infant are deficient, the child's nervous system and immune system may never fully develop, and it can cause a lifetime of unexplained emotional, learning, and immune system disorders.
- Optimizing your vitamin D levels. In the not too distant future I believe it will be mandatory for pregnant women to receive regular vitamin D blood tests. Along with reducing your risk of premature birth, studies have found that vitamin D may protect against a number of birth defects and autism.
It is absolutely imperative that pregnant women maintain a blood level of between 50 and 70 ng/ml of 25 hydroxy D. So please watch my free one-hour vitamin D lecture to find out how to get your levels optimized.
If you want even more tips on how to optimize your and your baby's health during pregnancy and beyond, please read my No-Nonsense Guide to a Naturally Healthy Pregnancy and Baby.