It’s one of the biggest running jokes about pregnancy. Pregnant mom eats more than she’s supposed to and everyone laughs and encourages her because she’s ‘eating for two”. But a tiny fetus hardly justifies ‘eating for two’. In fact, a pregnant woman should typically only consume a couple hundred extra calories a day.
We all laugh about “eating for two” but if you knew it could leave you stuck with extra pounds for life, would you keep it up?
Researchers have found that eating for two could leave pregnant women overweight for the rest of their lives. And it’s not just fitting into your old jeans you’ll have to worry about – pregnant women who gain excessive weight are at higher risk of obesity and health problems such as high blood pressure, later in life. You’re also more likely to suffer health issues while pregnant which puts your baby at risk. Complications suffered by obese women in pregnancy range from diabetes to life-threatening pre-eclampsia, while babies born to fat women are at greater risk of diabetes and obesity.
The Bristol University team used U.S. advice to monitor 3,877 mothers in the west of England during pregnancy and again after 16 years. Altogether, half of overweight and obese women ate more than recommended levels for their pre-pregnancy weight, compared with one in five who started at a healthy weight.
The long-term Bristol study found that those who gained more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy were three times as likely to be overweight, obese or become ‘apple-shaped’ 16 years later. But women who began pregnancy at a healthy weight and who gained only a little weight were much less likely to go on to become fat and develop related health problems.
It’s true that you need extra calories from nutrient-rich foods to help your baby grow, but you generally need to consume only 100 to 300 more calories than you did before you became pregnant to meet the needs of your growing baby. According to The Daily Mail – the NHS advises that during the first six months of pregnancy, a woman’s recommended energy intake of 1,940 calories a day does not change, so no extra food is required. In the third trimester, according to the NHS, a pregnant woman needs only 200 additional calories a day, which is like, what? A cup of cottage cheese? Not much.
In the UK there are no specific guidelines for how much weight a woman should gain during pregnancy. In America a woman of average weight before pregnancy should gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. Underweight women should gain 28-40 pounds during pregnancy. Overweight women may need to gain only 15-25 pounds during pregnancy. You may need to gain more or less weight, depending on what your health care provider recommends
The number of women who start their pregnancy obese has more than doubled in the past 20 years. And those are numbers from the UK. The American statistic has got to be higher.
Study leader Dr Abigail Fraser says pregnant women should avoid over-eating, particularly in the first six months when extra weight was laid down as fat before the baby really needed it for growth. This is hard, I know. About the only thing that kept me from retching my guts out during those first six months was eating constantly. Even the slightest hunger pang ratcheted morning sickness up to a ten.
Fraser says the most important take-home message of this study is for women is to attain a healthy weight before conceiving. “You don’t need to eat for two in pregnancy because this will cause you problems in later life, and is also linked to a higher risk of your baby becoming obese in childhood.”
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