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Weight management during pregnancy

Published by TheHealthSite

It is important to achieve and maintain a healthy weight before, during and after pregnancy by eating healthy, being physically active and gradually losing weight after pregnancy.

A healthy pregnancy depends on:

  • the mother’s pre-pregnancy weight; and
  • the amount of weight gained during pregnancy

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends healthy weight gain during pregnancy depending on the pre-pregnancy BMI (Body mass index). The general recommendation is 0.5 to 2.0 kg weight gain in first trimester and 0.2 to 0.5 kg/week in the second and third trimester depending on the BMI.

Being obese pre-pregnancy could increase the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure during pregnancy and the tendency of thrombosis (forming blood clots in legs) which could travel to the lungs. It could also increase the risk of neural tube defects (problems in formation of the baby’s brain and spinal cord), risk of miscarriage and higher possibility of the child having obesity and diabetes later in their life.

However, the ideal time for an obese woman to lose weight is before pregnancy. Weight loss is not advisable during pregnancy as the growing fetus may be harmed but they should keep the weight gain within the recommended limits

Read: Want to gain weight? Include these 10 foods in your diet

Gaining too much weight could increase the possibility of a difficult labour or an emergency cesarean section. Gaining less weight during pregnancy could lead to a premature delivery or a low birth weight baby and increase the chances of a cesarean section.

The right nutrition and diet modification are the key factors in determining the weight gain during pregnancy. ”Eat-for-two” is a myth, as the mother’s energy needs do not change in the first 6 months of pregnancy and increase only slightly in the last 3 months (and even then, only by around 200 calories per day).

NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, UK) recommends these tips to achieve and maintain a healthy weight before, during and after pregnancy:

  1. Eat a low-fat diet and watch the portion size of meals and snacks
  2. Avoid increasing fat and calorie intake (avoid fried foods, drinks and confectionery high in added sugars)
  3. Base meals on starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta (preferably wholegrains)
  4. Eat fibre-rich foods such as oats, beans, peas, lentils, grains, seeds, fruit and vegetables
  5. Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day
  6. At least 30 minutes per day of moderate intensity physical activity such as walking, cycling, swimming, aerobics is recommended.
  7. Minimize sedentary activities, such as sitting for long periods
  8. A mild exercise programme consisting of walking, pelvic floor exercises and stretching may begin immediately post-delivery (in case of no complications)

Obese women (BMI > 30) after childbirth should diligently work towards losing weight and could see a dietician or a weight management specialist for the same.

Read: Pica during pregnancy: safe alternative options for non-food cravings

A healthy diet and regular, moderate-intensity physical activity and gradual weight loss will not adversely affect the ability to breastfeed or the quantity or quality of breast milk. In fact, in addition to all its well-known benefits, breastfeeding helps in post pregnancy weight loss naturally.

It’s always a good idea for women with babies and children to take part in a range of physical or recreational activities like swimming, organised walks, cycling or dancing. This not only helps them lose the pregnancy pounds but also helps in bonding with the baby and as a mood elevator.

Dr. Astha Dayal
Consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecology
The CK Birla Hospital for Women