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Eating Your Way To A Healthier Pregnancy

Nutrition is essential for growth, development and for protection against disease. Pregnancy is a time of rapid growth and development and there is no other stage in a woman’s life where good nutrition is more important.

Amongst healthcare professionals, it is widely known that good nutrition is an essential ingredient for a healthy pregnancy outcome. However, there is growing appreciation of the long-term impact of prenatal nutrition, which affects the status of both mother and infant well beyond pregnancy.

1. The potential for maternal weight gain

Pregnancy has the potential to lead to excessive maternal weight-gain. Women now enter pregnancy approximately 10kg heavier than they did 20 years ago. Being overweight or obese before or during pregnancy increases a woman’s risk of adverse obstetric outcomes, including:

  • pre-eclampsia
  • operative delivery
  • foetal macrosomia
  • gestational diabetes

Most countries do not designate specific weight-gain goals for pregnancy, but rather give general advice regarding weight gain. In Ireland, we follow the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) weight-gain goals, which were revised in 2009 .

The IOM recommends that women with singleton pregnancies gain between 11.5-16kg, 7-11.5kg or 5-9kg, depending on whether they are a healthy weight, overweight or obese before pregnancy, respectively. These ranges were drawn from observed weight gains of women delivering full-term, healthy infants without complications. A systematic review by Abrams et al in 2000 reported that gaining weight within these ranges is associated with the best outcomes for both mother and infant.

Weight gain in pregnancy comprises the products of conception (the foetus, placenta and amniotic fluid), the increases in various maternal tissues (uterus, breasts, bloods and extra-cellular fluid) and increases in maternal fat stores.

2. Extra calories (kcal) are essential during pregnancy

Extra calories (kcal) are essential during pregnancy to allow for the energy deposited in maternal and foetal tissues and for the increase in energy used by the body. There is an increase in metabolism during pregnancy and an increase in the amount of energy spent during daily activities. The total energy cost for the entire duration of pregnancy is approximately 80,000 calories (kcal).

This equates to approximately an extra 200-300 kcal per day for the second half of pregnancy. However, exact energy requirements during pregnancy remain controversial because of inconclusive evidence on maternal fat-deposition and assumed reductions in physical activity levels as gestation progresses.

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All articles on the blog and website are intended as information only. Please do not consider any of the information provided here as a substitute for medical advice. At all times seek medical advice directly with your own doctor and medical team.

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