I gained quite a bit of weight from my first pregnancy and I had a hard time losing it all. In fact, I never did quite go back to my pre-pregnancy size. I just found out I'm pregnant again and while I know I have to eat with the baby in mind, I am very worried that I'll gain too much weight again. How can I avoid that from happening?
Excessive intake of carbohydrates and fats can lead to excessive weight gain in pregnancy, larger and fatter babies, and increased risk of gestational diabetes. These have been linked with increased risk of the child developing obesity, diabetes and heart disease in future. Some recent studies have also suggested that excessive protein intake, especially from animal sources, may also increase such risks.
However, it is still important that one’s daily diet contain a balance of carbohydrates, fats, and protein since some essential fats and proteins for baby’s normal development cannot be naturally produced by our body.
In practical terms, this means that we should avoid large portions of rice, noodles, potatoes, bread and pasta. Consumption of deep-fried foods, gravy, oily foods, steaks, processed foods, sweetened drinks, cakes, and sweets should be minimised while increasing the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables. In general, avoid overeating but at the same time diet should be adequate to abate the sensation of hunger.
Recent research also suggests that a woman’s diet before she conceives and during early pregnancy could have the greatest impact on the child’s future health. So women planning for a pregnancy as well as those who are pregnant should have a healthy balanced diet containing a range of macronutrients and micronutrients and consume foods in moderation. Even with a healthy diet, it is still possible for some micronutrients to be lacking. Therefore, daily supplements manufactured for pregnancy may be beneficial.
Regular exercise in pregnancy two to three times a week can also prevent excessive weight gain. Thirty to forty minutes of swimming, cycling and moderate to brisk walking are all safe in pregnancy. But if you experience any discomfort do consult your doctor. Doing five to 10 minutes of walking after a main meal is also helpful.
These lifestyle changes are most effective when started as soon as possible in pregnancy.
Questions answered by:
Associate Professor Chan Shiao-Yng
NUH Women’s Centre