By Rosanne Rust
New recommendations from the Institute of Medicine state that babies born to overweight mothers have a greater risk of premature birth or later becoming overweight themselves. The old guidelines looked at the weight gain as important to the health of the baby, but the new guidelines also consider the mother’s health. According to the new guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy, women who can begin their pregnancy at a healthy weight have less chance of pregnancy-related high blood pressure or diabetes, and reduced risk of needed a C-section.
So if you are planning a pregnancy in the near future, what do you need to know? For starters, you should check with your doctor and determine what your body mass index (BMI) is. Ask your doctor or dietitian to give you your BMI, which is based on your height and weight, or try going to a website such as http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/ and plug in your numbers.
Once you know what your BMI is, the recommended weight gain for each category of prepregnancy BMI is as follows:
• Underweight (BMI < 18.5 kg/m2); total weight gain range: 28 to 40 pounds
• Normal weight (BMI 18.5 - 24.9 kg/m2); total weight gain range: 25 to 35 pounds
• Overweight (BMI 25.0 - 29.9 kg/m2); total weight gain range: 15 to 25 pounds
• Obese (BMI ≥ 30.0 kg/m2); total weight gain range: 11 to 20 pounds
So you can see, that if you are overweight or obese going into a pregnancy, the weight gain recommendation is quite low, gaining only eleven to twenty pounds or so. As always, weight gain should be minimal in the first trimester (the first 12-13 weeks), and then a weight gain of about one half to one pound a week during the second and third trimesters (week 14-40) is still recommended. Women may consider getting nutrition counseling from an RD, as soon as they know they are pregnant, to help them understand how to control calories and include nutrients in the diet.
Since about 55 percent of women of childbearing age are overweight, the guidelines may be tough to meet, but setting some small goals may help lead you in the right direction, and the less overweight you are, the better.
Since pregnancy is not the time to lose weight, now is the time to address your weight issue by gradually making some changes in your diet and increasing your physical activity level. So if you are a young, overweight woman planning your future family, consider instituting these five easy, healthy habits now:
• Drink skim or 1% milk. Calcium is important to women’s health, and if you don’t already use lowfat dairy, now is the time to give it a try.
• Include 3 pieces of fruit in your diet everyday. Fruit is loaded with vitamin C and fiber and helps keep you full. If you munch on fruit through the day, you are less likely to eat high calorie snacks such as candy or chips.
• Skip the soda. A 20 ounce bottle of regular soda pop contains 250 calories! Sip on ice water or diet green tea instead. Or better yet, brew your own green tea once a week and make a big pitcher of iced tea to keep in your refrigerator.
• Limit fast food or fried food to no more than once per week. Choose salads and grilled meats. When you do treat yourself to some French fries for instance, share them with a friend or order a small size,
• Take a walk. Even if you aren’t a “jock” or don’t consider yourself athletic, you can walk for exercise. Invest in a decent pair of walking shoes and get outside. Or join a local gym or fitness center. Some will charge a “day rate” and you can go in and check it out for the day. You may be surprised to see that everyone there does not have a perfect body and are not skinny. But they are getting fit, and that’s your goal.
Make time to work toward a healthy weight now, so you can stay well through a future pregnancy.
Rust is a licensed, registered dietitian and nutrition coach who has a private practice in Meadville (www.rustnutrition.com). She is a nutrition instructor for Penn State’s World Campus and a licensed provider for Real Living Nutrition Services®. For more information about her online weight loss counseling and nutrition coaching service, visit her Web page at www.rosannerust.com or contact her at Rosanne@rustnutrition.com.
©Rosanne Rust 2009