Maintaining a healthy weight throughout pregnancy: Tips for finding the right balance between too much and not enough

According to research, children of obese mothers are more likely to become obese themselves as a child or an adult, and have a higher risk of getting diagnosed with autism or attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD).

However, half of the world’s mothers-to-be pack on the pounds, according to a study that involved half a million pregnancies, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2017.

Even women who had a healthy weight (those with a body mass index [BMI] of 18.5 to 24.9) at the beginning of their pregnancy gained too much weight.

University of Newcastle lecturer Dr. Jenna Hollis, University of Newcastle professor in nutrition and dietetics Clare Collins, and University of Southampton professor of nutritional epidemiology Sian Robinson tried to unravel the mystery of this phenomenon.

They carried out a study that showed extreme weight gain was more natural among women in the U.K. who were having their first baby.

The health advocates pointed out the importance of expecting mothers to calculate their recommended weight gain in pregnancy based on their body weight and BMI before they got pregnant. (Related: Prepregnancy weight is increasing, bringing greater risk (press release).)

Excess weight gain has been linked to a higher risk of developing diabetes in pregnancy, high blood pressure, and complications during birth. It can also affect the health of the baby in both the short-term and in the future,” they said.

Collins and her co-authors also said that it would be challenging for an obese pregnant woman to lose the weight after she gave birth. “Our recent study showed that women who gained more weight than recommended retained, on average, an extra four kilograms six months after their baby was born.”

However, not gaining enough weight can also be a problem. “Weight gain below the recommendations is associated with having a baby that is small for gestational age, or a preterm birth. It’s important for women not to try and lose weight during pregnancy. Dieting or limiting food intake could mean the baby doesn’t get enough nutrients needed for their development.”

According to the National Health Service, a pregnant woman need not go on a special diet; just eating a variety of different foods every day to obtain proper balance of nutrients that she and her baby requires is enough to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Things to do to ensure proper pregnancy weight gain

Aside from consulting with your doctor regarding the condition of your baby, also ask him or her about your weight gain. This is so that your doctor can refer you to a dietitian if your case necessitates doing so.

The concept of “eating for two” during a pregnancy is a myth. During the first trimester, dietary energy needs (measured in calories or kilojoules) only becomes slightly higher, so the amount of food that a pregnant woman needs to eat is really not that different from the amount that she needs to eat when she was not yet pregnant.

The Eat-for-Health Calculator can be used to find out the recommended daily servings from the five food groups (vegetables and legumes, fruits, grain foods, lean meats and poultry, and milk) to make you understand what you need to consume during your pregnancy.

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