As reported in the Globe and Mail: The U.S. guidelines make for chilling reading, detailing a long list of complications an overweight mother-to-be can expect for herself and her infant.
Among the laundry list of complications and risks, obese pregnant women face higher risks for:
- Gestational Diabetes
- Pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure)
- Fetal Macrosomia (high birth weight)
- Higher incidence of birth defects (noteably neural tube defects such as spina bifida)
- Significantly higher incidence of c-section delivery
- Infection following c-section
- Maternal death
The new guidelines strongly recommend that women who want to become pregnant try to reach a normal weight (a BMI of less than 25) before doing so, with "diet, exercise and behaviour modification." Women who are obese should also be advised not to seek fertility treatments because the rate of miscarriage and complications is so high.
At the same time, the group representing obstetricians and gynecologists warned strongly that women should not diet during pregnancy unless the regime is carefully monitored by a dietician.
According to the guidelines, a woman of normal weight should gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy, while an overweight woman should gain 15 to 25 pounds, and an obese woman should gain no more than 15 pounds.
These guidelines are not meant to scare women, but women should be aware of the higher risks associated with obesity in pregnancy and take necessary steps to ensure their pregnancy is as uncomplicated as possible. That means eating a diet that is nutrient-dense and avoiding all junk foods to boost intake of essential nutrients over empty calories. While not specifically in the guidelines, this also should include elimination of sweetened beverages in favor of water to increase nutrients from food instead of nutritionally bankrupt calories in sodas and sweetened beverages.
All pregnant women are advised to take a folic acid supplement to provide 400mcg each day - the new guidelines suggest obese women take a higher amount each day.
In addition the new guidelines strongly advise screening for diabetes early in the pregnancy - as early as the initial prenatal visit, to identify and manage existing diabetes not previously diagnoised - and additional screening again sometime in the first trimester to identify the possible development of gestational diabetes earlier than the current guideline of 28-weeks gestation (which remains in effect for normal weight pregnant women). These guidelines for obese women are in place to reduce the risks of gestational diabetes in the pregnancy.
I can't stress how important it is to eat well when you're pregnant. In the first trimester it is easy to think you're eating for two and start eating increased amounts of food - but the reality is you're not eating for two...calorie requirements do not start to increase until the second trimester, and even then it is not a significant amount of additional calories required - just about 300-calories more per day.
The quality of your diet is critical - don't squander calories on junk!
Eliminate all foods that contain:
- any trans-fats (ingredients that include - shortening, partially hydrogenated oils, margarine)
- high amounts of sweeteners - sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, corn syrup solids
- foods with damaged fats - especially deep fried foods
- beverages high in sweeteners, especially high fructose corn syrup
Eating well is the best thing you can do for your unborn child - and while you may want to have that banana split topped with all the fixings, remember this - your unborn baby is depending on you to eat well and provide all the essential nutrients you need and s/he needs too! And that means eating the best you can afford and making your choices real, whole foods that are nutrient-dense!
Throughout pregnancy, controlling carbohydrate through carefully selecting the carbohydrate foods you do eat is a good way to start eating a nutrient-dense diet. Selecting only whole foods from the carbohydrate category is a good first step:
- non-starchy vegetables should make up the highest volume of food you eat in a day - they offer nutrient-density, fiber and help sate appetite
- starchy selections should be carefully selected and included in smaller amounts if you want to include something like a sweet potato or corn
- whole grains should be 100% whole grain with an emphasis on 100% whole grain cereals such as steel cut oatmeal over more processed selections like instant oatmeal
- low "glycemic-load" fruits offer incredibly high amounts of antioxidants - specifically berries along with melons like canteloupe and honeydew and other fruits like cherries and plums
- higher "glycemic-load" fruits are still an option - just have a small banana instead of the largest one!
- nuts are low in carbohydrate and pack in essential fatty acids
- legumes offer fiber, nutrients and protein