Weight gain during pregnancy is an inevitable event, considering that there is another human being growing inside of you. However, obesity and overweight during pregnancy should not be an option, and neither is the common saying that you need to eat for two.
According to the research conducted by the University of Sydney, women who are planning to get pregnant but are obese or overweight should consider losing weight. The study shows that overweight or obese pregnant women are prone to many poor health outcomes that are harmful to the mother and the child during and after pregnancy (1).
That is why today, we are bringing you 7 ways that are meant to help you maintain a healthy weight despite the inevitable weight gain during pregnancy. Apply these methods in your everyday life and help yourself and your little one in the womb to live a healthy and happy life.
The outcome of obesity in pregnant women
Many studies have already pointed out the connection between cesarean sections and obesity in the child. Research shows that babies born by cesarean sections tend to be obese. With the latest study, it is clear then there is a connection between the mother’s health during pregnancy and the child’s health. It is interesting to note than the mother’s health during pregnancy has a long-term impact on the child and not just during the nine months. The latest result shows that 8.5 percent of cesarean deliveries happened during the period of 2010 – 2014 could have avoided if the mother was within a healthy BMI at the time of pregnancy. Experts also believe that, if there are no other complications, vaginal birth is always the ideal option for the baby and the mother in the long run. Obesity is a crucial fact that prevents the mother from having a normal delivery and affects the health of the baby in the long term (2).
Premature birth is the leading cause of infant mortality, long-term disabilities, and morbidity. Maternal obesity increases the risk of premature delivery (3). This can also lead to low birth weight in the baby. Overweight and obese women are at a higher risk of preterm birth and induced preterm birth, according to statistics (4).
The study by the University of Sydney also found out that maternal obesity and overweight have resulted in 14.2 percent of gestational diabetes in mothers during the last four years. Gestational diabetes is a condition in which healthy and young women develop symptoms of diabetes during the pregnancy period. This can considerably increase the risk of Pre-eclampsia, depression, and the need for having a cesarean delivery. Also, if treated poorly, gestational diabetes can affect the long-term health of the newborn (5). It is said that babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes are more prone to the risk of being too large, having jaundice, and low blood sugar after birth. If the mother is not treated properly for gestational diabetes, it can also result in stillbirth. Overweight is considered the number one reason for gestational diabetes in pregnant women. The only prevention is by maintaining a healthy weight and doing pregnancy exercises.
Stillbirths are another result of being obese and overweight during pregnancy. This study by the American Medical Association found out that women who are obese have a two-fold risk of stillbirth when compared to women within a normal BMI (6). Many studies have also found out that even a moderate weight increase in pregnant women can increase the risk of stillbirth, fetal death, and infant death. Experts even suggest exercise as one of the healthy pregnant tips.
Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy disorder caused by high blood pressure and a large amount of protein in the urine. This condition usually occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Although this condition can be regulated and treated, in severe cases, it can lead to impaired liver function, kidney failure, swelling, red blood cell breakdown, shortness of breath due to lung fluids, etc. From 2010 to 2014, there was 19 percent of pre-eclampsia in California itself. Obesity is the major cause of pre-eclampsia and related symptoms in women (7).
Fetal macrosomia is a condition when a newborn is larger than the normal-sized baby. A baby diagnosed with fetal macrosomia may weigh anywhere between 8 pounce to 11 pounds irrespective of the gestational age. Maternal obesity, maternal diabetes, excessive weight gain during pregnancy, and high maternal age are some of the causes of fetal macrosomia. There is a lot of risks associated with the condition, including labor problems, genital tract lacerations, bleeding after delivery, and uterine rupture. Newborns with fetal macrosomia are likely to suffer complications such as childhood obesity, metabolic syndrome, lower blood sugar, etc. It can be prevented by monitoring the mother’s and baby’s weight, doing pregnancy exercises, and managing diabetes.
Preconception health is very important
Over the last few decades, many efforts have been made to regulate pregnant women’s weight. Many pregnancy exercises have been developed to find balance and regulate the epidemics of pregnancy, diabetes, stillbirth, and other health complications (8). But it has shown little to no effect. The latest research also proves that the situation is only getting worse.
The key here is to focus on preconception health. Getting into a normal and healthy BMI before conceiving is the ideal option to prevent all the complications associated with obesity and overweight. Experts are of the opinion that once a woman is pregnant and overweight, weight management becomes even more difficult and ineffective.
It is also important to keep in mind that we raise general awareness in a way so that women can make their own decision without feeling judged or dictated. Preconception care is still a long due necessity for women. A lot has been said and written about maternal care and post-delivery care. But little has been spoken on the health care before a woman decides to conceive.
Weight management before conception is the most important call-to-action now. With the research showing concerning numbers in terms of the poor health outcomes of obesity and overweight in both mother and child, proper awareness is needed. Moving down to even one BMI class has been proven to improve the situation.
Scientists say that if overweight women had moved down one BMI category during the period of 2010 to 2014, 15.9 percent of fetal macrosomia, 19 percent of pre-eclampsia, 8.5 percent of cesarean deliveries, and 14.2 percent of gestational diabetes could have been avoided.
7 ways on how you can manage a healthy weight during pregnancy
Calculate your pregnancy weight
One mistake that most pregnant women do is not knowing their pregnancy weight. This is simply explained as they are not aware of how much weight they are supposed to gain during this period and still maintain healthily. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, based on your weight at the time when you became pregnant, you can:
- Gain 11 to 20 pounds if you are classified as obese (BMI 30 and higher);
- Gain 15 to 25 pounds if you are classified as overweight (BMI 25 to 29.9);
- Gain 25 to 35 pounds if you have a normal weight (BMI 18.5 to 24.9) (9).
You can use an online BMI calculator to calculate your exact BMI and your recommended daily calorie intake, or you can consult your doctor about what your daily calorie intake should be to avoid gaining too much weight (10). Do not be afraid if your doctor recommends losing a few pounds to maintain your weight within the healthy ranges as well.
Track your weight regularly
Tracking your weight is important no matter what your goal is – whether you are trying to lose weight, gain weight, or maintain a healthy weight. You can use something as simple as a piece of paper or a digital tool like the pregnancy weight tracker provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (11). Weigh yourself daily at the same time and track your weight accurately.
Log your calories
Once again, use the help of the internet and calculate your recommended daily calorie intake using a calorie calculator (12). Or you can always use a food diary where you can track your calorie intake throughout the day. To track your macronutrients carefully and make sure that you are eating enough protein, fiber, and healthy fats instead of eating too many carbs that will only make it harder for you to maintain your weight. Be honest and track your calorie intake accurately as well as your weight.
Be physically active
There are a lot of women who stop exercising because they fear that they will harm their babies. This is, however, wrong, and you can harm your baby more by avoiding physical activity rather than protecting it. That is unless your doctor has instructed you otherwise. The recommendations for daily exercise are not much different from those for nonpregnant women, and that is 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per day (13). Choose from the variety of pregnancy-recommended exercises such as walking, swimming, yoga, and jogging, among many others, to maintain your weight and improve your overall mental and physical health.
What you eat matters the most during the nine months of pregnancy. Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet will help your baby to develop and grow, whereas eating junk food, empty calories, and introducing toxins through your diet will only harm you and your baby. Make sure that you eat a variety of all of the recommended macronutrients each day (14).
Eat four or more servings of fresh veggies, two to four servings of seasonal fruit, three servings of lean protein, four servings of dairy products, and at least 6 to 11 servings of grains. Always choose foods that are rich in fiber so that you would feel full for a long time but also rely on protein to help you maintain your weight better and even lose that extra weight as well (15).
Manage the cravings
One thing that you will face during pregnancy is the weird pregnancy cravings. You may feel the urge to eat foods that you did not like in the past or some weird food combinations, but for most women, their cravings are often linked to junk food, cake, sweets, and empty calories in general. So, because these cravings cannot be avoided, you need a plan as to how you would manage them when you finally face them.
Our recommendation is to always combine something healthy with something unhealthy. Finding a healthy replacement is a good option, as well. For example, you can replace your usual order of fries for some sweet potato fries or replace the candy with fresh fruit. Making popcorn instead of reaching out for potato chips instead or eat a handful of trail mix to soothe those salty cravings of yours.
Drink lots of water
Proper hydration is important at any given time of your life, including your pregnancy (16). So, make an effort to drink enough water every day, and that means drinking the recommended eight glasses of water per day. Every time that you feel thirsty, instead of choosing soda, sweetened iced tea, or any other sugary drink, keep sipping on your cold water instead. Water will efficiently soothe your thirst and keep you hydrated throughout the day.
Overweight and obesity carry out their risks towards your health and your life. As if that is not enough, they also threaten to compromise the health of your little one while it is still in your womb. That is why you must maintain a healthy weight throughout your pregnancy and lose weight if needed. To do that, you need to track your weight, your calorie intake, drink enough water, and apply every other tip that we have given you in today’s article in your everyday life.