Is It Safe to “Diet” During Pregnancy?
The United States population is growing in size—literally.
According to recent estimates,160 million Americans are overweight or obese. To get even more specific, about 60% of American women are considered overweight or obese (BMI > or = 25).
For years now, maternal health experts have been concerned about a troubling and growing statistic:
More than half of American women are overweight or obese when they conceive. We know from the research that this puts both themselves and their children at higher risks of health problems.
This begs an important question for women who are overweight and expecting:
Should these women try to “lose weight”—or minimize the amount of weight she gains—while she’s pregnant?
And if so, how?
Minimizing Gestational Weight Gain for Moms-to-Be Who are Overweight: It’s Possible and Important—But Maybe Not as Important as Losing Weight BEFORE Pregnancy
A recent group of trials funded by the National Institutes of Health (called Lifestyle Interventions for Expectant Moms, or LIFE-Moms, n = 1,150) found some promising results:
Pregnant women were given lifestyle interventions, which taught them how to “improve diet quality and reduce calories, increase physical activity and incorporate behavior strategies.” These women were able to minimize gestational weight gain.
This may sound like common sense. But it’s an important point, because it truly affirms that women can augment their behaviors to control and limit the amount of weight gained during pregnancy.
This study comes with one key caveat, however:
The researchers DIDN’T find that decreased gestational weight gain was associated with fewer pregnancy-related complications.
In other words, even though the women provided with interventions gained less weight compared to the control group, they still faced common issues at the same rate. These issues could include gestational diabetes, hypertension, large infant birth weight, and prolonged labor.
That may not sound very promising. But (and this is an important but):
These trials began when women were ALREADY in their second trimester of pregnancy.
The lead author of the study logically points out that “to lower the risk of obstetrical complications, [women] may have to start changing their lifestyle before or immediately after they conceive” (emphasis ours).
Starting a diet and exercise program during pregnancy can help women who are already struggling with overweight or obesity avoid excessive weight gain during their pregnancies.
BUT to truly lower the risk of pregnancy-related health problems for both mom and baby, lifestyle changes are better made BEFORE conception.
Here’s what this means for us:
The sooner we start to see pregnancy as an event to train for, the better off we and our babies will be. And even IF a woman becomes unexpectedly pregnant or hasn’t switched gears yet toward a healthier lifestyle, IT’S NEVER TOO LATE. With doctor supervision and trusted resources, we CAN exercise and improve our diets during pregnancy.
The Move Your Bump nutrition & workout programs help mothers in all stages to improve their health. To learn more about all that Move Your Bump has to offer YOU, visit moveyourbump.mom.