How to manage weight gain for a healthy pregnancy
The health of a pregnant woman is as important as the Health of her baby. Many physical changes take place during pregnancy and putting on an extra bit of fat and gaining weight is one of the many changes that occur during this wonderful time.
However, it’s hard to know how much weight gain is healthy to avoid other complications which occur due to excessive weight gain during pregnancy, such as developing diabetes and a higher chance of a caesarean section.
Half of all women of childbearing age worldwide are overweight or obese, which puts both mother and baby at risk during pregnancy and in later life.
Previous studies have shown that diet combined with exercise helps to limit weight gain overall but the findings have been varied for their protective effect on maternal and offspring outcomes.
Researchers from the Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) undertook an individual participant data (IPD) meta-analysis to assess the effects of diet and physical activity on gestational weight gain and on maternal and offspring outcomes. They also assessed the overall effects, and of these individual interventions on complications that can occur in both mother and child.
The researchers found the dieting combined with physical activity reduced the mother’s weight gain by 0.7 kg compared to the control group. It also reduced the chances of a mother having a caesarean section by about 10 per cent.
This was the largest research project of its kind in the world looking at lifestyle interventions in pregnancy which involved assessing data from 12,526 pregnant women across 36 previous trials in 16 countries.
Researchers looked at the effects of dieting- which included the restriction of sugar sweetened beverages, increased consumption of fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products. They also compared the effects of physical activity – from moderate intensity exercise such as aerobic classes and stationary cycling to resistance training for various muscle groups.
The researchers found that dieting combined with physical activity reduced the mother’s weight gain by 0.7 kg compared to the control group. It also reduced the chances of a mother having a caesarean section by about 10 per cent.
Caesarean section carries many risks including infections for the mother and breathing difficulties for the baby.
It was also found that lifestyle changes (dieting and physical activity) reduces the risk of diabetes during pregnancy by 25 per cent which normally affects 1 in 10 mothers during pregnancy and escalates the risk of other complications in mother and baby.
The study shows that this beneficial effect of dieting and physical activity during pregnancy works for all groups irrespective of body mass index (BMI), age or ethnicity; and as such these interventions have the potential to benefit a large number of pregnant women and their babies.
It is often thought that pregnant women should not exercise because it may harm the baby but this study shows that such interventions do not affect babies – such as stillbirth, underweight or overweight births, or admission to a neonatal intensive care unit.
The most important step is not gaining excessive weight and with the help of healthcare providers, pregnant women can achieve a healthy pregnancy.
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