Study: Why a healthy weight before and during pregnancy is essential

A healthy weight at conception and during pregnancy helps set your baby up for a healthy future.

25 May 2016
by Candice Verwey

Research from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health indicates that achieving a healthy weight before and during pregnancy significantly reduces the risk of infant mortality. “One in three women start pregnancy at an unhealthy weight,” reproted lead study author Lisa Bodnar, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D, “and more than half of women gain either too much or too little weight during pregnancy.” Unfortunately this can have far-reaching implications for a baby’s health. [See here for more on this study]

The direct link between maternal health and a baby’s health

Kath Megaw, paediatric dietician and author of Real Food, Healthy, Happy Children (Quivertree) concurs that there is a direct link between maternal health and baby’s health: “Both mothers who are obese and mothers who are severely underweight increase the risk of complications during pregnancy and after birth. A mother who enters pregnancy with chronic obesity is at a high risk of developing diabetes and having a baby that is extra big for their gestational age.”

Similar studies refer to the link between mom’s health and that of her baby as “the 1000-day metabolic set up”. “This means that the first 1000 days of a child’s life from conception to the end of the toddler years establish a child’s metabolism as well as predisposition for developing lifestyle diseases later on in life, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and obesity,” says Megaw.

How to attain a healthy weight

With this in mind, Megaw shares her five golden rules for establishing a healthy weight during this important time:

1. Aim for a healthy body mass index (relationship of weight to height; BMI) by:

  • Eating plenty of whole foods such as fresh fruit and veg and unprocessed nuts and seeds. 
  • Eating adequate high quality protein (organic if possible) with an emphasis on eggs, chicken, fish and lean red meat.
  • Incorporating healthy fats in your diet. Avocado, coconut fats and olive oil are good choices. 
  • Drinking fresh water and herbal teas.
  • Limiting sugar intake and treats to once a week.

2. Choose an exercise regime that you can maintain throughout your pregnancy and post-birth. Aerobic exercise and some simple strength training and stretches for 30 minutes, three to four times a week, will suffice. 

3. Relax and take time out from the rush of life. 

4. Get sufficient sleep. 

5. Spend time in nature. 

“Points three to five are not directly related to nutrition, but research shows that people who have these in place tend to choose healthier, more natural foods,” says Megaw. “When we manage our stress, the body decreases the secretion of adrenalin and thus less insulin is produced which helps lower the risk of metabolic syndrome, a leading cause of obesity, diabetes and infertility.”

Kath Megaw is a speaker at the 2016 Baby Sense Parenting Seminars, proudly brought to you by Momentum Health. These seminars take place on 4 June in Cape Town and 11 June in Johannesburg. There will also be an online seminar that you can join if you are unable to attend the June seminars. This will run from 12 to 25 September. For more information and to book for these informative parenting seminars, visit www.babysense.com. Kath is also co-author of “Feeding Sense” (Metz Press). 

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com

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