Monday, 17 November 2008
by Nurse Jenna
It is one of the classic portrayals of pregnancy—the weird food craving of pickles and ice cream. Unfortunately many pregnant women do not just indulge in occasional odd flavor combinations, they gain weight far beyond what is recommended, or are already carrying an unhealthy number of pounds prior to their pregnancy.
Obesity has become an epidemic that has led to a plethora of health problems that carry over to complications during pregnancy. This in turn often leads to many delivery interventions and complications for both mothers and babies that would otherwise be unnecessary in a normal, healthy pregnancy.
A woman who has an appropriate BMI (body mass index—determined by dividing weight in kilograms by height in meters with 19.6-26 being normal) prior to her pregnancy would be expected to gain 25-30 pounds during the course of the pregnancy. Often women use pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever they want and rationalize it because they are “eating for two.”
The reality is that during pregnancy, a woman only needs an additional 500 calories per day for a healthy weight gain if she is of normal weight. If a woman is already overweight going into the pregnancy, which half of the woman of childbearing age are, she should only gain 15-25 pounds. Those who are considered “obese”, with a BMI greater than 30, should gain no more than 15 pounds.
A woman’s weight gain not only affects her, but continues to affect her baby throughout its life. It has been shown that women that gain more than 40 pounds are twice as likely to have children who struggle with weight problems their entire life. Women who gain more than the amount suggested by their providers are more likely to give birth to babies greater than 9 pounds, which then have a greater risk of longer deliveries and a higher rate of Cesarean sections. They are also at greater risk for pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, preterm delivery and babies with congenital birth defects.
So why is it that over 70-90% of women are gaining “excessive” amounts of weight with pregnancy (more than that recommended)? This is one component of a pregnancy and the resulting lowered risk of deliver complications that women can control. With the push for “decreased medical intervention” in what should be a normal birthing process why aren’t women taking charge of something they can by maintaining proper eating and exercising habits before and during the pregnancy?
How much weight did you gain during pregnancy? Had your provider discussed appropriate weight gain with you during your prenatal visitis?