Seventy-four percent of Australian women gain too much weight during pregnancy: that’s three in every four women. There are many reasons for this pregnancy weight gain epidemic; with one of the biggest being the misconception that you are ‘eating for two’, insinuating that a woman needs to substantially increase her volume of food intake during pregnancy. As a dietitian I often here women say things like “I had heard that the weight would fall off as long as I breast feed”, “I was told that I should listen to my body, so I thought that I was doing the right thing eating chocolate” or “I thought that this was the one time in my life that I could eat what I wanted to without it being a problem.” Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Problems with gaining too much weight during pregnancy
Pregnancy is a time for carefully watching your dietary intake. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can result in a number of problems, including:
Increased risk of pregnancy complications such as miscarriage, birth defects or gestational diabetes
Increased risk of birthing complications such as emergency caesarean delivery, increased risk of vaginal tearing or even, birth traumas such as broken tailbones as mum’s deliver large babies
An increased risk of developing obesity within the next fifteen years, and
An increased risk of obesity for your child.
Melanie’s top 5 ways to avoid gaining too much weight during pregnancy
Getting the balance right can be tricky, as it is obviously unsafe to ‘diet’ or lose weight during pregnancy. Make sure that you are doing the following:
1. Know how much weight you should be gaining throughout your pregnancy – research shows that just by knowing how much weight to gain, you have double the chance of achieving the right weight. Your recommended weight gain will change depending upon factors such as how many babies you are having and what your starting weight is. Ask your dietitian for advice.
2. Make an appointment to see an Accredited Practising Dietitian – your dietitian will check your blood chemistry, advise you on the right nutritional supplements to take during your pregnancy and design an individually-tailored meal plan to meet your pregnancy requirements.
3. Focus on a nutrient-dense diet – your nutrition requirements sky-rocket during pregnancy, so every mouthful needs to be packed for of nutrition. Focus on nutrient-dense foods such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, lean protein foods and low fat dairy products.
4. Develop a good mindset – It’s easy to find excuses to get take away and avoid exercises during pregnancy as you’ll be feeling exhausted, and may be suffering from morning sickness, back pain, constipation or a myriad of other complications. But, be positive, and find clever strategies to prioritise your nutrition and exercise. Your dietitian can help you find solutions which will work for you.
5. Exercise daily – many women are apprehensive about exercising during pregnancy. Although your exercise regime will need to change, it is still essential to maintain (or commence) daily physical activity. Remember that labour is like undertaking a marathon, so you will need to be in peak physical condition.