Most mummies will have heard this from well-meaning loved ones during pregnancy when it comes to eating and weight gain: “Go ahead and indulge. You’re eating for two!”
Here’s why you need to politely laugh off this comment and reach for an apple instead of that very tempting bag of chips. Researchers have found that for women with body mass index (BMI) in the normal and overweight range, excessive weight gain during pregnancy is associated with a 9 to 12 per cent increased risk of death by any cause.
Even more specifically, the scientists found the risk of death from cardiovascular disease was up by a whopping 84 per cent for women with a pre-pregnancy BMI in the underweight range who gained too much weight, and 20 per cent for those of normal weight.
Another stark statistic: those in the overweight range who gained too many pregnancy kilos had a 77 per cent increased risk of dying from diabetes.
The study, conducted by Professor Zhang Cuilin from the Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore and counterparts from the University of Pennsylvania and the US National Institutes of Health, was based on data from over 46,000 women and more than 50 years of follow-ups.
How much is too much?
The numbers may seem startling, but getting heavier is an inevitable and perfectly healthy part of growing a foetus in the womb. To give you a guide, here is the recommended amount of pregnancy weight gain according to your pre-pregnancy weight range. Speak with your doctor for more accurate numbers, especially if you are carrying twins or multiples.
Tips to keep your pregnancy weight in check
With temptations at every turn (we’re looking at you, bubble tea) and lethargy, it might take a little bit of effort to keep your weight gain within healthy limits — but it’s not impossible. Here’s our little tip sheet:
1. You don’t need that many extra calories
It’s normal to feel ravenous at times, but here’s the hard truth. The energy requirement of an expectant woman only increases by about 300 calories a day during your second trimester — this is equivalent to a chicken curry puff, in case you’re wondering — and 450 calories in the third trimester. As you work within these confines, it’s important to choose foods that are dense in nutrients like folic acid, calcium, iron and vitamin A.
2. Make smart swaps
At restaurants, opt for a plain baked potato instead of fries, or low-fat salad dressing instead of creamy sauces. And if you have to satisfy that craving, choose zero per cent sugar or go without (or less) toppings for your comfort drink, dark instead of milk chocolate, or sparkling water instead of sugary sodas. That way, you get to satisfy your craving somewhat, with fewer calories.
3. Get moving
Unless your doctor recommends otherwise, engage in light to moderate exercise to stay fit, burn some calories, and keep lethargy at bay. Start low and slow such as with a walk in the park or a low-impact activity like prenatal pilates. Even light cardiovascular exercises like a 10-minute jog have been found to be safe and beneficial. As always, listen to your body — you should be able to hold a conversation while moving, and there shouldn’t be any discomfort to your joints.
4. Keep a snack close by
Always keep a healthy snack option near you for moments when you feel peckish. Going for too many hours between meals can make you go on a hangry binge. A little bag of plain nuts or a banana in your bag could take the edge off your cravings.
5. Prepare your own meals
This way, you get to control the amount of proteins, carbs and seasoning that go into the pan. Pottering in the kitchen is also an opportunity to get on your feet and take a break from work. Here are 15 guilt-free lunch and dinner recipes that are big on nutrition and flavour.
6. Educate those around you
You might get a few raised eyebrows for weight-watching during pregnancy, particularly from older folks who may not be informed of the latest science. Rally them to your cause so they are on the same page when preparing family meals.