Body composition changes in pregnancy: measurement, predictors and outcomes

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Prevalence of overweight and obesity has risen in the United States over the past few decades. Concurrent with this rise in obesity has been an increase in pregravid body mass index and gestational weight gain affecting maternal body composition changes in pregnancy. During pregnancy, many of the assumptions inherent in body composition estimation are violated, particularly the hydration of fat-free mass, and available methods are unable to disentangle maternal composition from fetus and supporting tissues; therefore, estimates of maternal body composition during pregnancy are prone to error. Here we review commonly used and available methods for assessing body composition changes in pregnancy, including: (1) anthropometry, (2) total body water, (3) densitometry, (4) imaging, (5) dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, (6) bioelectrical impedance and (7) ultrasound. Several of these methods can measure regional changes in adipose tissue; however, most of these methods provide only whole-body estimates of fat and fat-free mass. Consideration is given to factors that may influence changes in maternal body composition, as well as longterm maternal and offspring outcomes. Finally, we provide recommendations for future research in this area.

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