We’ve all heard people utter the phrase “go on, you’re eating for two now” at barbecues, dinner parties and anywhere food is served, forcing expectant mothers to refuse more and more food from well-to-do friends. intended. and the family.
While pregnant women do not do it need to eat twice as much food, a baby’s growth and development is certainly highly dependent on the mother’s nutrient stores and intake during pregnancy. the Dutch famine during World War II demonstrated that malnourished mothers were more likely to give birth to growth-restricted babies. Their children were also more susceptible to chronic diseases in adulthood.
During pregnancy, a woman’s nutritional needs increase by 10% and 50%, depending on the specific nutrient. But its energy intake only needs to increase in the range of 15% to 25%. In Western societies, excess energy and body weight are more common than nutritional deficiencies.
The amount of food a woman consumes during pregnancy should not increase significantly. As a general rule, it should only increase by the equivalent of two medium-sized fruits and half a glass of skimmed milk on average over the duration of pregnancy. But everyone is different.
If women relax and eat for two, they risk gaining too much weight, especially if there is no substantial increase in physical activity. Recently, my colleagues and I discovered that a third of Australian women who were a healthy weight and just over half of women in the heavier-than-healthy category gained too much weight during pregnancy.
Complications resulting from excessive weight gain during pregnancy include an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes, problems during labor for mother and baby, weight retention after childbirth for mothers and an increased likelihood that the child will become overweight later in life.
This does not mean that weight gain should be limited. Not gaining enough weight can have negative consequences for mother and baby, so it’s important to achieve a healthy balance.
Several resources are available to guide a healthy weight gain during pregnancy. Your doctor, nurse or dietitian may give you information specific to you and your pregnancy, but here is a getting started guide, based on body mass index (BMI) before pregnancy:
underweight women (with a pre-pregnancy BMI of less than 18.5) should gain about 12.5-18 kilograms,
women of a healthy weight (BMI before pregnancy 18.5-24.9) should gain about 11.5-16 kg,
overweight women (BMI before pregnancy 25-29.9) should gain about 7-11.5 kg,
women classified as obese (pre-pregnancy BMI greater than 30) should gain about five to nine kilograms.
So how do women meet the extra nutrient needs without piling on the pounds?
A pregnant body becomes more efficient at absorbing nutrients. A high-quality diet is still important, but there isn’t as much room for discretionary foods that are low in nutrients but high in energy.
It is important to eat four servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables each day. Lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and whole-grain breads and grain products will ensure women get enough nutrients without exaggerating the kilojoules.
Physical activity is also important – maintaining an active lifestyle and 30 minutes of physical activity every day will help achieve a healthy weight.
It is difficult to meet folic acid and iodine needs during pregnancy through a regular diet. So folic acid and iodine supplements are now routinely recommended for at least a month before pregnancy and for the first trimester. Ideally, iodine supplementation should continue during pregnancy and lactation.
There is not enough evidence to support taking other vitamins or a multivitamin unless low levels are diagnosed.
While it can be nice to indulge during pregnancy, the myth of “eating for two” needs to be dropped to give babies the best chance for optimal development and future health.