Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2017 November; 72(11): 698-707.

Copyright © 2017 CLINICS

A novel body mass index reference range - an observational study

Sirlei Siani Morais * , Mirena Ide , Andrea Moreno Morgan , Fernanda Garanhani Surita

Departamento de Ginecologia e Obstetricia, Faculdade de Ciencias Medicas, Universidade de Campinas (UNICAMP), Campinas, SP, BR

*Corresponding author. E-mail:

received January 24, 2017; revised May 22, 2017; accepted September 4, 2017.



To generate a new body mass index curve of reference values and ranges for body mass index and weight gain during pregnancy and to compare the new curve and weight gain ranges with the currently used references.


A prospective observational study was conducted with a total of 5,656 weight and body mass index measurements in 641 women with single pregnancy who attended their first prenatal visit before 12 weeks. All the women were over 18 years old and had no medical conditions that would influence body mass index. Data were collected using prenatal charts and medical records during hospitalization for childbirth. A linear regression method was used for standard curve smoothing in the general population and for specific curves according to the baseline body mass index classification. Curves were obtained for the 5th, 10th, 50th, 85th, 90th and 95th percentiles. Concordance between the classification of women using the newly generated and currently used curves was evaluated by percentages and kappa coefficients. The weight gain was compared with the reference values of the Institute of Medicine using Student’s T test. The data were analyzed using SAS software version 9.2, and the significance level was set at 5%.


A general reference curve of percentiles of body mass index by gestational age was established. Additionally, four specific curves were generated according to the four baseline body mass index categories. The new general curve offered percentile limits for women according to their initial body mass index and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention limits, showing poor agreement with the currently used curve (48.3%). Women who were overweight or obese when starting prenatal care had higher weight gain than the Institute of Medicine recommendation.


The new proposed curve for body mass index during pregnancy showed weak agreement with the currently used curve. The new curve provided more information regarding body mass index increase using percentiles for general and specific groups of body mass index. Overweight pregnant women showed an upward body mass index trend throughout pregnancy that increased more dramatically than those of other groups of pregnant women, and they also presented a major mean difference between weight gain and the Institute of Medicine recommendation.

Keywords: Gestational Weight Gain, Body Mass Index, Prenatal Care

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