Study Finds Higher Pregnancy Weight Gain Among Women in U.S. Military

by Ella

Recent research conducted at the University of Virginia reveals that women in the military, particularly active-duty personnel, experience higher rates of excessive weight gain during pregnancy compared to civilians, potentially leading to postpartum complications and impacting military careers.


Led by Professor Rebecca Krukowski from UVA’s Department of Public Health Sciences, the study analyzed health data from the Military Health System Data Repository, comparing it with civilian samples. The study included information from over 48,000 women who gave birth in 2018 and 2019 under TRICARE, the health care program for uniformed services’ beneficiaries.


The findings indicated that 75% of military women experienced excessive gestational weight gain, with 42% facing substantial postpartum weight retention. These conditions are linked to costly maternal and neonatal complications such as pregnancy-related hypertension and low birth weight.


Notably, military spouses and family members demonstrated lower rates of excessive weight gain during pregnancy compared to civilians, where the rate was 47.5% based on data from 2012 and 2013.


The study highlighted potential factors contributing to higher pregnancy weight gain among active-duty personnel, suggesting that changes in eating and exercise habits during pregnancy may be more pronounced due to relaxed fitness test requirements and excused exercise sessions with their units.

According to national guidelines from the National Academy of Medicine, pregnancy weight gain should be within specified ranges based on pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI). However, the study found that many military women exceeded these guidelines, indicating the need for alternative weight management strategies tailored to this population.

Professor Krukowski emphasized the importance of addressing overweight and obesity-related pregnancy weight gain and postpartum weight retention in the military, stating that these factors could pose challenges for active-duty women in maintaining required fitness levels and pursuing military careers.

Drawing from previous research, Krukowski suggested interventions like “Moms Fit 2 Fight,” which showed promise in reducing excessive pregnancy weight gain among military health care participants. However, larger-scale implementation of such programs may be necessary to effectively address this issue within the military health care system.

The study, titled “Overweight/Obesity, Gestational Weight Gain, Postpartum Weight Retention, and Maternal/Neonatal Complications in the Military,” was recently published in the journal Obesity, the flagship journal of the Obesity Society.


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