Pregnancy is blissful. The mother-to-be is the center of attraction and she is given the choicest variety of foods to eat as her health defines the developing fetus’ health greatly. Huge changes have evolved in the recommendations and advices given by physicians to the pregnant women depending on the evolving lifestyle practices and overall health of the population. ‘Eat for two’ was a popular concept a couple of decades back and still dominates many sectors of the society. This concept paved way for enormous weight gain but the consequences were overruled as people assumed weight gain during pregnancy to remain neutral on the mother’s health and in fact, considered healthy for the child’s development. In recent years, physicians have started facing an array of weight gain-related complications such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and increase in C-section deliveries. Also, pregnant women started delivering bigger babies (another cause for increase in C-section deliveries) and the delivered babies were also at an increased risk of obesity and juvenile diabetes. All these are consequences of drastic weight gain during pregnancy in the overall childbearing population. The side effects of this weight gain on the obese/overweight pregnant population is alarming and needs immediate intervention.
On the Knife’s Edge
Overweight/obesity affects both the mom and child duo badly, yet physicians are reluctant to advise against weight gain during pregnancy fearing the baby’s health and nutrient needs. A latest study funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) shows that it is safe and permissible to restrict weight gain in obese/overweight women with proper nutrition guidelines. The base of the study was to discharge lifestyle recommendations and nutritional counselling via a smartphone diet app and managing follow-ups and change in recommendations via phone and chat.
Most women of childbearing age across the world are overweight/obese and these are the women who are at a higher risk of pregnancy-related weight gain comparatively. Such weight gain affects the mom-child duo as they are at an increased risk of diabetes, preeclampsia, hypertension and birth defects. Also, weight control/loss programs are exclusively for non-pregnant women. Data shows that children born to overweight/obese moms are 50% likelier to grow into overweight/obese adults and the chances increase to almost 70% when both parents are obese/overweight. The changes in physical traits and likeliness to become overweight/obese appear not until the child’s three, four or five years of age. Its high time that there are ways to cut down weight gain during pregnancy in obese/overweight women.
Weight Control & Not Weight Loss
Weight loss is never recommended for overweight/obese women during pregnancy and the study tried to control weight gain with healthy diet intervention and physical activity. According to the research group, moms who are motivated to make lifestyle changes during pregnancy are likelier to follow it through the period fearing the baby’s good health. After delivery, the lifestyle change becomes a habit of a lifetime; the new mum becomes a role model for other members of the family to follow suit and become healthier in life.
The research team analyzed 281 obese/overweight women aged between 18 and 45 years who were from different ethnic backgrounds. Every participant went through a nutritionist who proposed a DASH (Dietary Approach to Stopping Hypertension) diet plan depending on the calorie requirements and meeting the restricted weight gain recommendations for every individual. DASH diet is an excellent diet plan that’s recommended for people with hypertension as it is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish and lean protein. DASH is best-suited for pregnancy as it provides the pregnant woman with calcium, potassium and protein without excess salt, sugar and saturated fat. Every participant was advised to walk for 30 minutes or take 10,000 steps daily to stay fit. The nutritionist involved tracked every participant’s calorie consumption, physical activity routine and weight changes. Constant reminders were sent via messages, emails and phone calls regarding the progress of the participants.
Women tracked food consumption via an app and they also slept between 7 and 9 hours for a smooth metabolism. Sleep changes affect body metabolism and contribute to weight gain. Results showed that overweight/obese women in the study group gained 2.5 kilograms lesser than those women in the control group during pregnancy. Also, a decreased number of participants in the intervention group, 68.6% versus 85%, exceeded recommendations for pregnancy weight gain for obese/overweight women. Weight gain must be between 5 and 11 kilograms in women belonging to the obese/overweight group compared to the normal weight gain recommendations (11 to 16 kilograms) for women in the healthy weight ranges.
Pregnancy is a time when women are emotionally motivated to eat, hesitant to exercise and love being pampered. All these are challenging enough to motivate a pregnant lady to eat healthy and stay active. Controlling eating habits and increasing physical activity rates are a challenging task. But it’s the need of the hour as more and more childbirths from obese/overweight women will result in a population of children who are prone to obesity/overweight as they grow into adults. Obese/overweight women in childbearing age who are planning to conceive can get in touch with registered dietitian nutritionists at www.firsteatright.com to lose weight in a healthy way and conceive naturally without facing consequences all through pregnancy.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.