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Not all women are built the same. Some of us are naturally thin, while others are more on the heavy side. However, when you get pregnant, you can expect a rapid weight gain irrespective of your body type. Pregnancy being a tricky time already, it is prudent that you do not lose or gain too much weight as it could jeopardise your pregnancy. If you are overweight or obese during your pregnancy, don’t despair. You can still have a happy pregnancy as long as you follow a set of healthy habits. The most important thing you need to do is to consume a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and listen to your doctor. The medical dangers of obesity should not be ignored as they concern your baby, your health, and both your lives.
Being Overweight During Pregnancy
Obesity and pregnancy is a dangerous combination. There are multiple complications associated with being an overweight pregnant lady, especially during labour and birth. You now need to start paying careful attention to nutrition, daily activities, and any sudden weight gains. It is safe, however, for overweight and obese women to lose weight during pregnancy. Your doctor will be able to help you, or you could take the advice of a nutritionist if you feel you want to. Feel free to get help from your family as it concerns the health of both you and your child.
How Much Weight Should One Gain During Pregnancy?
Normal weight gain during pregnancy depends on your pre-pregnancy weight. Obstetricians around the world have recommendations for normal weight gain during pregnancy. Surpassing these recommendations could have serious consequences on the outcome of your pregnancy. The proposed gain in weight will depend on your Body Mass Index or BMI. The BMI is a formula that calculates the weight range you belong to, based on your height and weight. You can use an online BMI calculator online to find out which category you fall into.
If you are underweight
The BMI of an underweight person is below 18. If this is you, you may gain up to 18 kg during your pregnancy without fear of complications.
If you are a healthy weight
If your BMI is between 18 and 25, you are healthy and can afford to add between 11 and 15 kg during your pregnancy with no issues.
If you are overweight
If your BMI is between 25 and 30, you are overweight and should take care not to gain more than 7 to 11 kg until your baby is born.
If you are obese
The BMI of an obese person is over 30. In this scenario, it is very critical you do not gain more than 5-9 kg during your pregnancy.
Complications of Being Overweight During Pregnancy
Being overweight during pregnancy can pose several challenges both to the mother and to the child. Here are a few of them.
Risks to the Mother
Most overweight women will give birth without any difficulties. However, the higher your BMI, the greater the risk of complications. You can learn about these risks from your doctor. Some of them include:
- Blood clots
Pregnancy itself increases the chances of developing blood clots, and a BMI above 30 increases the risk further.
- Gestational diabetes
Obesity increases the risk of a special type of diabetes known as gestational diabetes by 300%.
In the first trimester, a healthy woman has a 20% risk of miscarriage, while for an obese woman the risk is 25%.
- Post-partum haemorrhage
It is likelier that a heavy blood loss will begin after giving birth if your BMI is 30 or above. This can increase your risk of postpartum haemorrhage.
Risks to the baby
The chance of stillbirth increases from 0.5% for a woman of healthy weight to 1% for an obese woman.
- Developmental abnormalities
The risk of having a baby with severe birth defects, such as spina bifida, is much greater in an obese woman.
- Premature birth
Having your baby before its due date could cause serious problems in later life. Premature babies are underweight and need extra antenatal care as well.
- Later life problems
Children who are born to obese mothers tend to have a higher chance of getting heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
Dieting While Pregnant to Lose Weight – Is It Okay?
It is perfectly fine to lose weight during pregnancy when under the supervision of a trained dietitian. However, getting into weight-loss diets on your own could have a negative impact, as restricting your nutrient intake could hamper the development of the foetus inside you. Also, pregnant women tend to feel hungry more often as their blood sugar is low. This can make them cheat on their diets and indulge in unhealthy snacks between meals. The key is knowing what foods should and should not be eaten.
Ways to Control Your Weight During Pregnancy If You Are Obese
During overweight pregnancy, you will face a lot of difficult choices. You will have to make a conscious effort to protect both your and your baby’s well-being. Here are some tips that will help you in managing weight gain during pregnancy.
- Visit the doctor regularly
Your doctor will do a prenatal screening to find out how your baby is doing in your womb. It is imperative you do this regularly, as you face greater challenges in your pregnancy as an obese lady.
Exercise is probably one of the most important things you should do. Some ideal exercises are swimming, jogging, running and stationary cycling. If nothing else, at least try walking for 30-40 minutes per day to keep your cardiovascular system fit.
- Eat healthy
Make sure you eat more fruits, whole grains, lean meat, veggies and dairy. Discard the notion of consuming soft drinks, alcohol, and fried food, as this greatly increases the risk of obesity in your child. Your first trimester does not require you to eat any more than usual, and your second and third trimesters only demand the addition of 300 calories per day. This is the amount found in a single banana.
- Eat smaller meals more often
Eating frequent, small meals a day is a safer bet than the usual two full square meals that might make you feel nauseous. Smaller meals can also help you control how much you eat.
- Don’t forget your prenatal vitamins
Pregnant women are prescribed vitamin supplements in any case. But if you are obese, you will need to control your weight without missing out on the nutrients. Ask your doctor if you want to take more than the prescribed amount of these vitamins.
- Track your diet
It might help to use an app or a diary to keep a tab on your caloric intake, so you don’t go overboard and eat more or less than is necessary. Hire a dietitian if you feel that is necessary.
- Drink enough water
Remaining hydrated throughout your pregnancy is a no-brainer. Also, drinking enough water has the fringe benefit of keeping you full between meals. The recommended amount of water per day for pregnant women is around 2.5 – 3 litres.
- Accept yourself
It might sound like a new age mantra, but accepting the changes your body is going through is immensely healthy for both you and your child. Gaining extra weight during pregnancy is completely normal, even if you are obese. As long as you manage your weight, there is no reason not to have a successful pregnancy.
Conclusion: One of the most important aspects of carrying a baby as an obese woman is stress. As much as you fear for the health of your child, stress and anxiety are only going to worsen those fears. Also, scientific evidence shows that mothers who went through pregnancy stress had children born with health risks. Meditate, do yoga, and spend time relaxing and pampering yourself. It is very crucial that you don’t pay heed to the old wives’ tale of eating for two, as healthy foetal development requires a balanced, wholesome diet, not just food in higher amounts. Managing your weight with a few habit changes and a good support network is all you need to expect a healthy, happy baby.