By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Does having a baby mean lasting weight gain? It seems so for many women.
A study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that excessive pregnancy weight gain happens for women of all pre-pregnancy sizes. Once that weight goes on, it’s hard to get off with the added responsibility of a new baby.
Of underweight women, 23.5 percent gained too much. For normal weight women, 37.6 percent packed on too much weight. Overweight women fare worse. 61.6 percent of overweight women and 55.8 percent of obese women gained more than what their doctors recommended.
Gaining too much weight during pregnancy contributes to raising risks of many diseases — including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer — but increased clothing sizes and stretch marks are the most evident and immediate side effects.
Of course, the baby’s health is top priority for pregnant women, but women planning to have a baby can take a few steps to maintain their own bodies.
“The mother’s health prior to pregnancy is playing a bigger role in the health and well-being of the child and the mother after giving birth than they ever thought,” said Christina Ganzon, registered dietitian with Finger Lakes Health. “Her recovery time will be quicker and she’ll have more energy faster. The faster she feels better, the better off everyone will be.”
Ideally, women should get healthy before conception by forming good health habits such as eating a well-balanced diet comprised of a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein and plant-derived fats.
“Eating right can help you gain the right amount of weight your doctor prescribes,” said Cindy Fiege, certified herbalist, Nature’s Sunshine certified In.Form coach, and owner of Harmony Health Store, LLC, in Spencerport.
“Back when I was having kids 30 years ago, we weren’t focused on eating good foods. Nutrition wasn’t thought of during pregnancy. I think that we were still in a mindset that the baby only got the good food. We know that’s not true now.”
Some women still believe that “eating for two” equals two adult-sized portions, but according to the CDC, women can wait until the second trimester to increase their caloric intake, and then they need only an additional 340 to 450 calories daily.
As with other aspects of health, women’s care providers can offer detailed advice on eating healthfully before, during and after pregnancy.
Women should also establish a fitness routine before pregnancy to help control weight and increase strength. Gaining too much weight or gaining weight too quickly contributes to stretch marks.
The CDC recommends 150 minutes weekly exercise to maintain current weight. Women who need to lose weight should increase the time. Exercise should consist of aerobic movement, which raises the heart rate, and resistance training, which strengthens muscle.
“Build those core muscles so it supports the baby easier and makes it easier for delivery,” said Gabrielle Bougoine, general manager and personal trainer at Harro East Athletic Club in Rochester.
Getting in shape before pregnancy can also help most women safely continue to exercise through pregnancy.