Toronto: Mothers who fail to lose 'baby weight' within a year of giving birth are at an increased risk of developing diabetes or heart disease, a new study led by an Indian-origin scientist has warned.
While it has long been believed that not losing 'baby weight' for several years after pregnancy carries long-term risks of diabetes and heart disease, the research team at Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, aimed to test this theory by tracking risk factors and weight in the first 12 months after giving birth.
The team led by clinician-researcher Dr Ravi Retnakaran followed 305 obstetrical patients at Mount Sinai Hospital throughout pregnancy and the year following birth.
Three-quarters of the women (about 225 women) lost at least some of their 'baby weight' by one year, and were found to maintain healthy levels in cholesterol, blood pressure and other tests.
But one quarter of the women studied gained weight in that year, and these women showed a clear increase in risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
"This finding helps us advise women about the importance of losing their excess pregnancy weight in the first year after delivery," said Retnakaran, a clinician-scientist at Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, and Associate Professor at University of 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," he said.
The research found that the elevated risk factors seen after 12 months postpartum had not been present earlier at three months postpartum, Retnakaran added.
"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," he said.
The study is the first to follow mothers' weight patterns for the first year after giving birth and check them against the full slate of metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors, researchers said.
It provides direct evidence to support the theory that failure to lose "baby weight" carries long-term implications for diabetes and heart disease risks, they said.