Written by: Valerie Hazelrig
Getting pregnant and obesity
It was my favourite-ever excuse to pig out. ‘I’m pregnant, so I’m eating for two,’ I would say, as I loaded my plate with improbable portions of crisps, pies and chips. I thought nothing of eating two or three jam donuts in one sitting. Guilt free snacking, at last! Or so I thought.
As my waistline expanded, I put it down to baby growing inside me, but I was in for a terrific shock when I went to the doctors. I was gaining weight at twice the recommended rate. Rapid weight gain during pregnancy compounds every complication of pregnancy, which is why regular weigh ins are vital to pregnant women.
The doctor sternly informed me that obesity and pregnancy in women can lead to many problems, including pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, and the need for a Caesarean section. Furthermore it can result in foetal abnormalities, or worse, death of the baby, and even death of the mother.
The cheerful list went on – it can also lead to blood clots, haemorrhage after birth, problems with breastfeeding, and wound infections. I sat down (far too heavily, it must be said) and considered my future. It was enough to make me throw away the king size Mars Bar I had stashed in my bag and replace it for a few carrot sticks.
Obesity and trying to conceive
For those of us trying to get pregnant, obesity is bad news too – being overweight can affect fertility dramatically, in both men and women. Carrying excess body fat can lead to imbalances in your reproductive hormones. Obesity affects ovulation and menstrual cycle too, although the precise mechanism isn’t understood.
A fat future
And bad news if you want to fit back into your size 10 clothes after baby’s popped out. Gain weight during pregnancy, and you become twice as likely to be overweight in the future, and four times as likely to become obese.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
My overweight mother was plagued with polycystic ovary syndrome, which is also linked to obesity and weight gain. This can interfere with your ability to conceive, and is characterised by a variety of unpleasant symptoms such as irregular menstruation, insulin resistance, acne, excess body hair, and increased testosterone levels. Weight loss is the first and best way to deal with with polycystic ovary syndrome – shed those pounds, and you’ll improve your fertility, and reduce your chance of miscarriage.
Obesity and fertility treatment
And if you’re obese, and you need fertility treatment , it’s bad news here as well – if you’re overweight, you will have a poorer response to fertility drugs plus, it’s more difficult for your body to absorb the drugs.
Get him to the gym
Partner a tad tubby? Then march him to the treadmill. Men with an increased Body Mass Index (BMI) have a lower sperm count, along with lower semen quality.
What to eat when pregnant
Forget the phrase ‘eating for two’ and focus on a well-balanced diet instead. Eat sensibly, and you shouldn’t need mineral and vitamin supplements, although folic acid is the exception.
- Eat as much freshly-prepared food as possible.
- Eat fibre to prevent constipation.
- Eat plenty of complex carbohydrates – they score high on the GI index, keeping you fuller for longer, and providing long-lasting energy.
- Eat plenty of protein – it’s important for skin, tissue, and muscle growth.
- Drink at least 2 litres of water per day to help flush toxins from your system.
- Forget frozen meals and fast food – make a salad or sandwich for a quick and easy dinner.
Exercise for health
And just because you are with child doesn’t mean you can’t exercise — recent studies have shown that exercising during pregnancy increases your chance of giving birth to a healthy, active baby.
If you want your baby to be lighter and healthier, then waddle on over to the gym or invest in home equipment – the study showed that mothers-to-be who peddled on exercise bikes gave birth to smaller babies. Smaller babies get a head start, as they are are less likely to become overweight adults, which means less diabetes, and other weight-related problems in later life.
The mothers who exercised gave birth to children weighing on average 3.4 kg, compared to 3.5 kg for the mothers who did not exercise.
And yes, you may be suffering from morning sickness, and aches and pains, but 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise per day could make all the difference to your child’s health, and yours too. Three out of four pregnant women don’t get enough exercise, nor do they eat properly either. For a healthier you and healthier baby, switch the chips for salad, and sofa for an evening stroll… come on, you can do it.