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April 2015

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Austin Health trial participant Anjulie Palipane and her husband, Don.

Study on pre-pregnancy weight loss benefit

Anjulie Palipane knew losing weight would increase her chances of a healthy pregnancy.

So she decided to take part in a unique trial led by Austin Health.

The pregnancy outcomes after pre-conception weight loss (POP) study aims to determine optimal weight loss for obese women planning pregnancy.

Half the women are put on a diet to achieve significant weight loss while a control group adopts a moderate weight loss program.

Mrs Palipane’s diet was designed to achieve significant weight loss over six weeks.

She said while the diet took determination, she was spurred by her big-picture goal.

‘These days, there are so many complications which can occur during pregnancy and, if I can reduce the chance of those occurring before falling pregnant, I have a greater chance of a healthy pregnancy,’ Mrs Palipane said.

The 28-year-old was aiming to lose 20kgs on the trial and said she had benefitted from the support of her husband, Don and her family.

Trial co-ordinator, Austin Health and University of Melbourne endocrinologist Dr Sarah Price said obesity during pregnancy caused a range of significant problems for both mother and baby and had emerged as a major health concern both in Australia and across the Western world.

‘Around 20 per cent of women of child-bearing age in Australia are obese and we know excess weight has significant ramifications for mother and child,’ Dr Price said.

‘Obese pregnant women are at much greater risk of developing gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, pre-eclampsia and requiring c-section deliveries.

‘Their babies are much more likely to have a high weight at birth which increases the risk of a traumatic delivery.

‘It also puts them at a greater risk of metabolic syndrome – diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity – later in life.’

‘Babies born to obese mothers are also at greater risk of pre-term delivery, jaundice requiring treatment and admission to the special care unit.

Dr Price said the aim of the study was to see if substantial weight loss for obese women pre-conception had a greater impact on reducing health concerns in mother and baby than moderate weight loss.

‘Currently, we don’t know if significant weight loss is a good thing or not.’

The trial will recruit at least 176 women and Dr Price said it was the first large study of its kind.

Dr Price said women would be randomly assigned to either a significant weight loss program for 12 weeks or a moderate weight loss program.

Both programs would be nutritionally-complete but would contain different calorie contents.

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