Maternal Child Health Program
School of Public Health and Community Medicine 
University of Washington

This web site was partially supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau through grant number 6T76-MC00011


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Adolescent Nutrition and Eating Disorders
N.W. Regional Web Symposium

Adolescent eating disorder issues summarized

Adolescent weight management summarized

Adolescent weight management evaluation table

Healthy nutrition for children:  an interview

Pregnancy in Adolescence

Risky Eating Behaviors

MPH Student Research 
Biographical Information

 Pregnancy in Adolescence

Jane Mitchell Rees, PhD, RD, CD
Departments of Health Services and Pediatrics 
Maternal Child Health and Adolescent Medicine 
University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195

Eating Disorders
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Risky Eating Behaviors

Weight Management

What is the optimal weight gain for adolescent mothers during gestation?

Nutritional support is guided by the need to achieve sufficient maternal weight gain to produce an infant in the optimal weight range for maximum probability of survival.  Adolescent mothers will need to gain more weight than adults to deliver the same sized infants.  Considering individual variation, it is recommended that adolescents gain from 0.9 to 1.3 lb (0.41 to 0.59 kg) per week in the 2nd and 3rd trimester, for a total of 28 to 40 lbs (12.7 to 18.1 kg) during gestation.

What is the optimal birth weight for infants of adolescent mothers?

A study of US births for a 5 year period (16.5 million births) showed the highest neonatal survival rates in a range of 3000 to 4500 g (6.6 to 9.9 lbs) for Whites, and 3000 to 4000 g (6.6 to 8.8 lbs) for Blacks, regardless of age of the mother (see 1996 Pediatrics article, Rees, Lederman and Kiely; click HERE for link to article abstract).

A recent study confirms the optimal birth weight, for Native Americans is the same for infants of adolescents as for adults.  The lower limit of the optimal birth weight range, that is the range of maximum viability, is the same as for Whites and Blacks.  There is some variation at the upper end of the optimal range for the three groups.  For the study of Native American optimal birth weight see the poster of Crystal Tetrick's MPH thesis research, presented at the 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association.

A related study shows evidence of growth/reproductive trade-off in African-American adolescent gravidas, and the effect on birth weight. (Click here for link to study).


Akinbami LJ, Schoendorf KC, & Kiely JL. 2000.  Risk of preterm birth in multiparous teenagers. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 154(11):1101-7.

Hediger ML, Scholl TM, & Schall JI.  1997.  Implications of the Camden Study of Adolescent Pregnancy:  interactions among maternal growth, nutritional status, and body composition.  Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 817:281-291.

Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board, National Academy of Sciences.  1990.  Nutrition during Pregnancy, Subcommittee on Nutritional  Status and Weight Gain during Pregnancy.  National Academy Press.  Washington, D.C.

Lenders CM, McElrath TF & Scholl TO. 2000.  Nutrition in adolescent pregnancy.  Current Opinion in Pediatrics 12:291-296.

March of Dimes. 2002. Nutrition Today Matters Tomorrow.  March of Dimes Task Force on Nutrition and Optimal Human Development.  March of Dimes Fulfillment Center, Wilkes-Barre, PA.

Rees JM, Englebert-Fenton KA, Gong EJ, & Bach CM. 1992.  Weight gain in adolescents during pregnancy:  Rate related to birth-weight outcome.  Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 56: 868-873. 

Rees JM, Lederman SA, & Kiely JL.  1996.  Birth weight related to lowest neonatal mortality in infants born to adolescent and adult mothers.  Pediatrics. 98: 1161-1166. (Click HERE for link to article abstract).

Scholl TO, Hediger ML & Schall JI.  1997.  Maternal growth and fetal growth:  pregnancy course and outcome in the Camden Study.  Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 817:292-301.



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