In England, about 16% of all pregnant women are obese from conception. The United States boasts 60% of women being overweight while pregnant. Obesity is a worldwide epidemic that can be linked to the rising number of diabetes cases, increases in health care costs, and gestational diabetes. Experts once claimed weight loss during pregnancy was detrimental to the fetus, but when weighing the pros versus the cons, weight loss is far more beneficial than remaining obese for the duration of the pregnancy and risking gestational diabetes and potentially life threatening events for baby or mom.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has established a website to help health care providers work with obese mothers, or potential mothers, in terms of diet, food choices, portion control, and caloric intake. Exercise is also listed as an important part of pregnancy, even if the mother is obese at conception. The interesting point is a recommendation by NICE not to support dieting while pregnant.
No Dieting? That’s Not What Your Information Suggests
The list of recommendations by NICE includes eating fresh fruit and vegetables, choosing starches that are high in fiber, and exercising daily. These are the same suggestions most people follow when starting a new dieting plan. For an obese woman, making lifestyle and dietary changes of this caliber could be defined as “dieting”.
WebMD, a trusted source of online medical information, defines a healthy pregnancy diet as one that is rich in iron, vitamin C, calcium, fiber, and folic acid. They also suggest limiting caffeine intake, fats, and sweets. These are also very common goals for women trying to lose weight.
Changes in Diet Could Cause Weight Loss Even When You’re Not Dieting
An obese woman that changes to a healthy pregnancy diet may lose weight. This weight loss could last the entire pregnancy leaving her weighing far less after baby is born than when conception occurred. Though NICE and WebMD do not support dieting during pregnancy, their guidelines can be defined as just that for the obese pregnant woman.
Babycenter.com may define the difference better than any other pregnancy expert online. According to Babycenter, “Overweight women have an extra reserve of calories in stored fat, so as your baby grows, it’s not harmful to maintain or even lose a little weight at first. What’s not okay is losing weight because you’re intentionally cutting calories (and, as a result, limiting nutrients).”
Losing weight will reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, but weight loss in its basic form is not supported during pregnancy. There is a fine line between dieting and eating healthy for many obese women. If a daily diet consisted of 3000 to 4000 calories before becoming pregnant and is reduced to 1500 to 2000 calories during pregnancy, weight loss will occur without risking nutritional deficiency in the process – add in daily exercises and the additional calorie burn could cause even more weight loss.
The Solution is a Focused Approach Tailored to Obese Pregnant Women
Many suggestions, recommendations, and healthy pregnancy diets are written by doctors, registered dieticians, or nutritionists. While educated, many have no personal link with obesity and its effect on the body. When a pregnant woman of normal weight is told to exercise, the effect on calorie burn will be minimal compared to the number of calories burned when the same exercise is performed by an obese woman. Guidelines for healthy diet, exercise, and nutritional intake should be tailored to the obese woman – defining specifics about how intense exercise should be, how often exercise should be performed, and how high heart rate should rise to stay within healthy limits. The same specific guidelines should be offered for healthy pregnancy diets.
Reducing the risk of gestational diabetes improves fetal and pregnancy health. Widespread guidelines created with the obese pregnant woman in mind may be more effective than general recommendations, expectations, and warnings.
“Rising Obesity In Pregnancy Causes Concern For Gestational Diabetes.”Medical News Today: Health News. 30 July 2010. Web. 30 July 2010.
“Creating a Pregnancy Diet: Healthy Eating During Pregnancy.”WebMD – Better Information. Better Health. Web. 30 July 2010.
“Plus-size and Pregnant: How to Manage Your Weight during Pregnancy | BabyCenter.”BabyCenter | Homepage – Pregnancy, Baby, Toddler, Kids. Dec. 2009. Web. 30 July 2010.