Substantial weight gain during pregnancy may lead to delivery lacerations

While most women need to gain weight during their pregnancy, it's important for them to note that they don't need to gain an excessive amount. Some women may take pregnancy as a time to eat whatever they want and ignore fat and calorie content, but this could actually lead to some serious health problems for themselves and their babies. For example, a recent study conducted by researchers at Montefiore Medical Center found that gaining many pounds during pregnancy may increase the risk of lacerations during delivery

"Excessive weight gain during pregnancy can result in larger babies, so we wanted to study whether there is increased risk for tears to the mother's vagina during delivery," said Diana Garretto, M.D., of the department of obstetrics & gynecology and women's health Montefiore Medical Center. "Our results were noteworthy - when the mother gains too much weight, it causes increased risk for tears during delivery."

Watch what you gain
The researchers examined more than 1,000 women and found that more than 120 of them experienced significant increases to their body mass indexes during pregnancy. More than 85 percent of these women experienced lacerations, compared to 69 percent who did not dramatically change their BMIs. 

Tears to the vagina during pregnancy can range from minor to major. For example, there are first-degree tears that usually do not bleed or require much attention, but second-, third- and fourth-degree tears can be quite serious and may require surgery to repair, and result in pain, bleeding and infection. Clearly, these types of tears are something that you want to avoid, and this study suggests that keeping your weight in check could be one easy way to help prevent them. 

The scientists explained that excessive weight gain during pregnancy could lead to women having larger babies. These larger babies may be more likely to tear the vaginal wall during delivery, causing these serious lacerations. 

Stay fit while pregnant
It can be difficult to know how to stay in shape while pregnant. While you don't want to gain too much weight, you also want to make sure that your baby is getting all of the calories he or she needs to grow healthy and strong. However, there are ways that you can safely remain fit during pregnancy. 

For example, WebMD recommends that when you're wondering how to stay fit while pregnant, you should take your regular exercise routine into consideration. If you don't normally exercise, that doesn't mean that you can't start during pregnancy - you just need to be careful and go slowly. Women who aren't used to exercise should do things like walking, engaging in water aerobics and tak​ing classes that are specifically designed to help pregnant women stay fit. 

If you're an old pro at exercising and already do it vigorously on a regular basis, you can still work out, but you should take it down a notch. WebMD spoke to James Clapp, M.D., author of the book "Exercising Through Your Pregnancy" who explained that conditioned athletes who continue to exercise during pregnancy often experience less complicated labors and gain less weight than their counterparts who refrain from physical activity after becoming pregnant. 

If you're unsure about how often or vigorously you should be exercising, or about how much weight gain is healthy during pregnancy, then talk to you doctor. He or she will be able to give you all of the tips and information you need. 

Did you exercise during your pregnancy? If so, did you notice any positive or negative effects as a result? Tell your story here!