"Big babies become big children and big adults later on. If we can reduce that happening, we can have a big public health impact," says Lesley McCowan, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
The study, led by McCowan, showed that 74 percent of women pregnant for the first time, gained excessive weight.
"Babies born large are at risk of traumatic birth, and caesarean delivery increases the chance of complications for the mother," says McCowan, according to an Auckland statement.
"If we can optimise weight gain during pregnancy, we can also eliminate an important cause of obesity in women," McCowen says. "Most women who gain too much weight are not able to lose that weight after pregnancy and it puts those women on a trajectory to becoming obese."
"The findings are important for the health of the mothers as well as the babies," says McCowan.
"Excessive weight gain during pregnancy will not only exacerbate existing obesity, but will contribute to later obesity in women who start pregnancy with a normal body mass index but have excessive weight gain in pregnancy."
The study was conducted by the international SCOPE Consortium, which aims to develop effective ways of predicting and preventing complications of pregnancy. The weight of the women was recorded at 14-16 weeks into the pregnancy and again just before delivery.
Of 1,950 participants - from Auckland, Adelaide and Cork in Ireland - 17.2 percent achieved the recommended pregnancy weight gain, while 8.6 percent gained less weight than the recommended amount and 74.3 percent gained an excessive amount.