Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum told Nursery World, 'Pregnant women, particularly those who are overweight or obese, should be weighed and their BMI (body mass index) checked regularly. There should be clear guidelines for weight put on in each trimester, to protect both the mother and their unborn child.'
He said that if a pregnant woman is weighed regularly, her baby could be monitored and problems with childhood obesity could be identified and tackled earlier.
Mr Fry said that in American health programmes, obese pregnant women are weighed at each antenatal visit. Guidelines recommend that healthy women gain 25 to 35lbs while pregnant and obese women gain 11 to 20lbs in order to minimise risks and deliver a healthy baby.
Under the NHS a pregnant woman's weight, height and BMI is measured only at the first antenatal appointment, known as the 'booking visit'.
Mr Fry's comments were made in response to the Government's newly launched initiative Start4Life, which he claimed ignores pregnant mothers and fails to put in place effective measures to tackle childhood obesity.
The Start4life campaign is intended to help pregnant women and parents reduce the risk of their children becoming obese later on in life (News, 3 December 2009).
In order to help reach the Government's target of reducing overweight and obese children to year 2000 levels by 2020, the National Obesity Forum recommends that biological fathers also be weighed before the birth of their child, as evidence shows that children whose parents are obese have a greater risk of becoming obese themselves later on in life.
The forum is also calling for the Health in Pregnancy grant to be replaced by vouchers that can be exchanged for fresh produce, to prevent women from spending the money on other things.
The £120 grant from the HMRC was introduced last April for all women at seven months into pregnancy to improve the health of their unborn babies (News, 9 April 2009).
Mr Fry also said that all children from one year of age be should be weighed throughout their pre-school years to reduce the number of children starting school overweight or obese.