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Preventing Excessive Weight Gain During Pregnancy

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Many women gain more weight than recommended during pregnancy. New research finds that low or moderate exercise combined with a healthy diet during pregnancy is the best way for a woman to avoid excessive weight gain and reduce the child’s risk for obesity later.

This new study involved 49 women between 16 and 20 weeks of pregnancy. The women were assigned to either a moderate- or low-intensity walking program and both followed a diet based on guidelines given to pregnant women with gestational diabetes. The women were then compared to a second group of pregnant women, the control group, who were not assigned to a diet or exercise program. Researchers noted that all women had a healthy and normal weight before their pregnancy.

The women in the healthy eating and exercise groups gained less weight than those in the control group and were less likely to gain an excessive amount of weight. Within 8 weeks of delivery, 28% of the women in the moderately intense were within 4.5 pounds of their weight pre-pregnancy. This is compared to only 7% of the women in the control group.

All babies born to the women in every group had a similar birth weight as well, which shows that preventing excessive weight gain during pregnancy does not affect the baby’s birth weight. Instead, pregnancy may be a time that helps to determine the child’s health as they grow. Preventing excessive weight gain during pregnancy may help to reduce the child’s risk for obesity in the long run.

According to Stephanie-May Ruchat, lead author of the study, women gain a great deal of benefits by remaining active during pregnancy. Physical activity is also recommended by most major professional organizations. Unfortunately, most pregnant women lead a rather sedentary life, which contributes to excessive pregnancy weight gain that is also associated with a higher risk for obesity for both mother and child.

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Ruchat also went on to discuss the myths about pregnancy nutrition. Among them, the advice that pregnant women are “eating for two.” Instead, women should eat twice as healthy, not twice as much. Pregnant women only need to add 200-500 kilocalories per day for their second and third trimester, depending on their BMI before pregnancy. Heavier women, for example, should add fewer extra calories every day during pregnancy.

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