In a study published in the January issue of The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers studying more than 6,000 Australian women over 10 years found that women with partners had significantly greater weight gains than women who remained single. At the beginning of the study, the women were between 18 to 23 years of age and throughout the study these women would periodically complete surveys regarding height and weight, age, educational level, exercise levels, smoking status, alcohol and medication consumption among other health issues.
By the time the study had concluded, more than 75% had given birth at least once and more than half had earned college degrees. For the women who gave birth, most of the increase in weight occurred with the first child and subsequent births did not add much.
The study found that the greatest weight gain was, not surprisingly, among partnered woman who had had a baby. These woman gained around 20 pounds (for an average 140-pound woman) as compared to 15 pounds for those women who did not have a baby but still had a partner, and 11 pounds for women who were childless and single. There were insufficient women with babies who were single to make any statistically significant conclusions.
The primary author for the study, Annette J. Dobson, professor of biostatistics at the University of Queensland in Australia, suggested that the significant weight gain in pregnant women may be due to physiological changes.
"Women's bodies may adjust to the increased weight associated with having a baby," said Dr. Dobson. "There may be a metabolic adjustment that goes on when women are pregnant that is hard to reverse. This would be more consistent with our findings than any other explanation."
The cause of this significant weight gain is certainly up for debate but it is a troubling finding as the greater weight gain can mean greater health problems.
"This is a general health concern," said Dr. Dobson. "Getting married or moving in with a partner and having a baby are events that trigger even further weight gain.
"From a prevention point of view, one can look at these as particular times when women need to be especially careful."
Being aware of the risk of this significant weight gain is an important step in getting partnered women to take a more active role in maintaining a healthy weight level.
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