If a woman gains excessive weight during pregnancy, it could lead to gestational diabetes, an increased risk of cesarean section or excessive birth weight of the newborn. (Image: gpointstudio / istockphotos)
If a woman gains excessive weight during pregnancy, it could lead to gestational diabetes, an increased risk of cesarean section or excessive birth weight of the newborn. (Image: gpointstudio / istockphotos)
  • Research news

How can weight gain during pregnancy be optimized?Weight gain difficult to influence through lifestyle counseling

If a pregnant woman gains excessive weight, it can pose a problem for both the mother and child. As a solution, regular counseling appointments have been proposed. Based on results with 2286 women, a team of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in cooperation with the Competence Center for Nutrition (KErn) has now shown that although counseling appointments as part of routine prenatal care can encourage a healthier lifestyle, it does not reduce weight gain.

If a woman gains excessive weight during pregnancy, it could lead to gestational diabetes, an increased risk of cesarean section or excessive birth weight of the newborn. The goal of the Bavarian Healthy Living in Pregnancy Study (GeliS) was to make pregnant women aware of the problem and to improve their dietary behavior and physical activity. More than 70 medical and midwife practices in Bavaria participated in the study.

Women in the study group received three counseling sessions (30−45 minutes each) from week 12 of pregnancy, followed by another consultation several weeks after childbirth as part of their preventive check-ups. They also received additional information material as well as forms that allowed them to independently record and monitor their weight gain and physical activity. The control group only received the information material.

Slight reduction in newborn weight

Study Director Professor Hans Hauner, Professor of Nutritional Medicine at the TUM, explains the initial findings: “Unfortunately, the counseling concept proved unsuccessful and had no measurable effect on maternal weight gain.” Despite the counseling, over 45 percent of the participants gained more weight than recommended by the international standard of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) − over 14 kilograms on average. Nor did the counseling lead to a reduction in complications such as gestational diabetes, hypertension or premature labor.

Nevertheless, his research team did find some positive effects: An initial look at the extended data shows that many pregnant women did in fact pay close attention to their diet and exercised regularly. In addition, more than 85 percent of women continued the program to the end and readily took the advice they received to heart. “Evidently, that was not enough to reduce their weight gain. What we saw, however, was a reduction in the size and weight of the babies of the women who participated in the program. That, too, is a small but important achievement,” Hauner says. The study team also recommends that counseling sessions be started before the 12th week of pregnancy.

Main criterion: suitability for routine use

In addition, a special feature of the study was the fact that the counseling sessions were integrated into routine prenatal check-ups. It is the largest study in the world to use this approach. “It was important to us that the concept be suitable for routine use. The pregnant women did not have to appear for any additional appointments, and the effort on the part of the doctors and midwives was well defined. Only such solutions are practicable. “Numerous studies have looked after and monitored pregnant women with the help of separate regular appointments,” Hauner says. “Even if that has a positive effect, it’s not a practical solution for all pregnant women − and that should be the goal,” Hauner says.


Julia Kunath and Julia Günther, Kathrin Rauh, Julia Hoffmann, Lynne Stecher, Eva Rosenfeld, Luzia Kick, Kurt Ulm, Hans Hauner: Effects of a lifestyle intervention during pregnancy to prevent excessive gestational weight gain in routine care – the cluster-randomised GeliS trial, BMC Medicine, January 14, 2019, DOI: 10.1186/s12916-018-1235-z

Rauh K. & Kunath J., Rosenfeld E., Kick L., Ulm K., Hauner H.: Healthy living in pregnancy: A cluster-randomized controlled trial to prevent excessive gestational weight gain - rationale and design of the GeliS study, BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 2014; DOI: 10.1186/1471-2393-14-119

More Information

The following partners were involved in the study: Competence Center for Nutrition (KErn), Bavarian State Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Forestry, Centers of Expertise for Nutrition and communal catering in the Offices of Food, Agriculture and Forestry in Fürstenfeldbruck, Regensburg, Bayreuth, Fürth and Würzburg, the Bavarian State Ministry for Health and Healthcare, AOK Bayern, and the program Healthy Start to Life – Young Family Network.


Prof. Hans Hauner
Chair of Nutritional Medicine
Technical University of Munich
Tel.: +49 (0)8161-71-2000 (-2001 Secretariat)

Corporate Communications Center

Technical University of Munich Dr. Vera Siegler

Article at tum.de

Bottles filled with colorful soft drinks.

Reducing soft drink consumption effectively

Soft drinks dominate the beverage market worldwide. Rising consumption of these sugary drinks is regarded as one of the major factors driving the global obesity epidemic, and has been linked to increased risk of diabetes,...

Vertragsunterzeichnung mit Vorsitzenden, Vorständen und weiteren Mitgliedern der Else Kröner Fresenius-Stiftung, den drei TUM-Professoren, dem TUM-Präsidenten Herrmann und Vertretern des Fundraising der TUM. (Bild: Benz / TUM)

Research for a healthy nutrition

Once again, the Else Kröner-Fresenius Foundation is funding nutritional medicine research at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) with five million euros.  The well-established Else Kröner-Fresenius Center of the TUM is...

Stilllende Mutter. (Foto:  Dmytro Vietrov / Fotolia)

Breastfeeding alters maternal metabolism

An interdisciplinary team of scientists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has studied the metabolism of women with gestational diabetes after giving birth. Along with partners at Helmholtz Zentrum München and the...

Das Else Kröner-Fresenius-Zentrum für Ernährungsmedizin (EKFZ) am Campus Weihenstephan der TUM. (Foto: U. Benz/ TUM)

Nutrition at the heart of medical research

The Else Kröner Fresenius Center for Nutritional Medicine (EKFZ), which has been part of the Technical University of Munich for the past ten years, has played a major role in transforming nutritional sciences in Germany:...

Sowohl Eizellen als auch Spermien können epigenetische Information weitergeben, was bei der aktuellen Studie insbesondere bei den weiblichen Nachkommen zu einer starken Fettleibigkeit führte. (Foto: Fotolia/ Crevis)

You Are What Your Parents Ate!

Diet-induced obesity and diabetes can be epigenetically* inherited by the offspring via both oocytes and sperm. Scientists from Technical University of Munich in collaboration with researchers at Helmholtz Zentrum München...

Prof. Matthias Tschöp entwickelt mit seinem Team neue Therapieansätze gegen Adipositas und Diabetes. (Foto: A. Heddergott / TUM)

Hormone Triplet offers Hope for Obesity and Diabetes

A new substance that unifies the action profiles of three gastrointestinal hormones lowers the blood sugar level and reduces body fat considerably beyond existing drugs. With the discovery and validation of such novel...