You and baby make two
But do you need to eat that way? Too much weight gain and not enough exercise can cause health problems for Mom.
Beth Stambaugh Published: 3/29/2018
Unless you’re a teenage boy, eating all you want is probably not an option. But what if you’re pregnant? Is eating for two OK?
“Unfortunately, eating for two is a myth,” said Jeannine Mauney, MD, an OB/GYN who delivers at Baptist Medical Center South. “I tell my patients that as long as they are eating a well-balanced, healthy diet with a daily prenatal vitamin, their baby will get the nutrients needed. You really don’t need to eat more than usual.”
But many pregnant women eat much more than they should. A new study from the Centers for Disease Control says that nearly half of all American women gain more weight than they should during pregnancy. Many gain excessive amounts.
So what should the scale say? The recommendation is based on your body mass index (BMI). The standard weight gain should be between 25 and 35 pounds; if you’re underweight, the recommendation is 28 to 40 pounds. And if you’re overweight, you may need to gain only 15 to 25 pounds.
“I see some patients – even those who start out at a normal weight – gain 50 pounds or more during the course of their pregnancy. This is not healthy and can cause a multitude of problems, including a lifetime of weight issues for the mother,” Dr. Mauney said.
In addition to eating a well-balanced diet, Dr. Mauney encourages her patients to incorporate exercise as a part of their daily routine. “You don’t want to start a new high-intensity activity while you’re pregnant, but it’s perfectly fine to start a low-impact exercise like walking,” she said.
Gaining too much weight can also cause serious health conditions.
“Gestational diabetes is more prevalent among women who gain more weight than they should,” Dr. Mauney said. A recent study by the American Diabetes Association shows that high maternal weight is associated with a substantially higher risk of gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes occurs when the placenta makes hormones that can increase the amount of sugar in the blood. If your pancreas can’t keep up with the demand to make more insulin, your blood sugars rise, causing the condition.
“Babies born to moms with gestational diabetes may have higher birth weights, making the delivery more difficult and increasing the likelihood of a C-section and even birth trauma,” Dr. Mauney said. The condition can be treated during pregnancy but there is a much higher risk of the mother developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Excessive weight gain also can increase the risk of preeclampsia, a condition characterized by high blood pressure and protein in urine, which can cause serious complications for mother and baby. The condition can sometimes be treated with IV or oral medications, but the ultimate cure is to deliver the baby, which can be an issue if it’s too early.
The best game plan? Work on a healthy diet and exercise before you get pregnant.
“If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, schedule a preconception consultation with your OB/GYN so you can make healthy lifestyle changes before you get pregnant,” Dr. Mauney said. “The more healthy habits you have in place, the better – for you and the baby.”