Monday July 22 2013

Diet and Nutrition: Maintain a healthy weight during your pregnancy

By Hope Ayebare Nimurungi

Did you know that as an expectant mother, you need to watch your weight? While weight gain cannot be avoided during pregnancy, you don’t have to be careless about your eating habits.

In fact, more attention should be paid to what and especially how much food you eat. Although you need more than the usual nutrient requirements, it is easy to put on excess weight which would put the mother at risk of developing conditions such as pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and consequently complications with labour and delivery. This also increases the risk of caesarean births.

The body mass index
The acceptable weight gain is determined by many factors including the mother’s weight or body mass index (BMI) before pregnancy. If one has been underweight, with a BMI of less than 18.5, then a weight gain of 11.5 to 18kgs is recommended. If you are in the healthy weight range, with a BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9, then a weight gain of about 11.5 to 16kgs is recommended. For an overweight person with a BMI of between 25 and 29.9, a weight gain of not more than 11.5kgs is ideal.

Responsible eating
Weight loss during pregnancy is not recommended. However, it does not call for you to double your food intake. You need to be responsible with your eating and minimise the risk of labour complications, premature birth, and obesity in babies.

Studies have proven that childhood obesity puts babies at a greater risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension later in their adult lives.

So, what is the best diet for a pregnant woman and how would you know you are eating too much?

Remember the days you have asked for a third cup of porridge just because it tastes nice?

After all, everyone knows you are eating for two. All I can say now is resist the urge to overeat. Eat a variety of balanced meals daily, and drink lots of fluids.

You will gain appropriate weight eventually.

Focus on the quality of your meals, and not the quantity because your overall daily energy requirement increases just slightly during pregnancy.

Best nutrients
The most important nutrients for a pregnant woman include calcium, iron, protein and folic acid. These can be got from a diet rich in vegetables, nuts, beans, fruits, dairy, and cereals.

Keep in mind that you will not appreciate all the baby fat that lingers after delivery and that it puts you and your baby at risk.

Baby fat is implicated in almost all female obesity cases. You have heard statements like, “I used to be small until I had my first-born child.”

This is mostly because most mothers are not advised on proper eating habits during pregnancy or how to lose the extra weight later.

Achieving a healthy weight before conception is desirable. If you are contemplating pregnancy, and have concerns about your body weight, or if you have problems losing weight up to two years after birth, talk to your doctor or dietician.