Weight management before and during pregnancy
The statistics are quite alarming - half of the UK population is now either overweight or obese. This has a huge impact on the health of the individuals involved, and on the NHS and UK economy. Women of childbearing age are very much at risk of the adverse effects of obesity. Excessive weight gain in pregnancy is associated with increased pregnancy complications (e.g. pre-eclampsia, diabetes, high blood pressure) and adverse outcomes for both mothers and babies, and is a major risk factor for childhood obesity.
In May 2012 the British Medical Journal* published an article by a team of medical researchers which challenges the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines from 2010 which state that dieting during pregnancy is not recommended and may harm the unborn child. These researchers undertook a review of 44 previous studies involving more than 7000 obese or overweight pregnant women to establish the effects of dietary and lifestyle interventions on pregnancy outcomes. They concluded from these studies that following a healthy diet and limiting calorie intake during pregnancy to manage excessive weight and pregnancy weight gain can significantly reduce the risk of complications for you and your baby and did not affect babies’ birth weights.
If you are overweight or obese and you are thinking of having a baby, it makes sense to try to lose some weight before you conceive. If you are already pregnant then you shouldn’t be aiming to lose weight during your pregnancy, but you should manage any weight gain carefully and not gain more than has been recommended to you by your doctor or midwife. You should be eating sensibly – have a look at our advice on a balanced pregnancy diet.
If you'd like to share your experiences with us we'd love to hear how you've got on; were you able to lose weight before you conceived or how much weight did you gain during your pregnancy?
Bye for now.
Setting a good example around foods
As parents we have many responsibilities. One that shouldn’t be underestimated in this day and age, in my opinion, is teaching our children about healthy food choices and sensible eating.
We must try to help our children feel good about their bodies and show them how to maintain a healthy body weight, whilst ensuring that the foods they choose provides all the nutrition they need for good health and well-being. Whilst you may feel you don’t have all the skills and nutritional knowledge to pass on to your children, there are various tools available to help you do this. Some links that you might find useful for yourself and any older children are given below:
NHS - Good food for home
NHS - Change 4 Life
Some simple things to remember include:
- Offer children a variety of nutritious foods at planned meal and snack times – and if possible eat with them and use it as an opportunity to talk about different foods and why they are good to include in the diet
- Plan meals and snacks at regular times - Having set meals and snack times can help children develop good eating patterns and teach them good food behaviors
- Don’t overfeed – try and pick up on their cues for when they are hungry or full. Babies and young children generally have ways of telling you when they are hungry and know when they’ve had enough to eat. Don’t force babies and young children to finish off all the food that you offer them if they don’t seem to want it.
- Try and be a positive role model for a healthy lifestyle - Children like to imitate adults, and will learn many of their attitudes about healthy (or unhealthy) eating and physical activity from you. Be enthusiastic about trying new foods yourself. Spend time playing actively with them and don’t just sit and watch. When children notice that you are trying new foods and playing actively, they are more likely to do the same.
For a handy guide on what makes up a good diet for a baby, why not have a look at our leaflet.
I hope you’ve found this interesting.
Losing weight after childbirth
It seems that not a week will go by without photos in the media showing celebrities looking super-slim shortly after the birth of their babies. Just last week Beyonce Knowles was looking slim and healthy 10 weeks after having her daughter, but if the stories are to believed this has only come about after a crippling 4 hour a day exercise programme and a restrictive diet of protein shakes, egg-white omelettes, pineapple chunks and lots of ice-cold water! Not something most of us would want or be able to do, I think.
But is this the best way to lose weight after birth? The concern is that these celebrity mums pressurise, although not intentionally, other women to lose weight too fast after the birth putting their health and well-being at risk. Crash dieting can have health consequences. As I'm sure many of you already know, having a baby is a tiring business and severely restricting your diet can only make this worse. A lack of energy will mean you won't be in the best state to look after your baby properly and it may well slow down your recovery from your pregnancy. Of course if you are breastfeeding it may well affect your breastmilk supply too.
Weight loss after birth takes time - a pregnancy usually takes 9 months and it can take at least this long to get your weight back to normal. Losing weight gradually can help mums to maintain a healthier weight in the long term, whereas crash diets don't encourage the best eating habits or healthy weight loss or maintenance.
The best advice is to eat a nutritious, varied diet from the start, eating when you are hungry, and not to even think about slimming for at least the first 6 weeks or so after your baby is born. Breastfeeding mums are often hungry and will need to eat more calories than a bottle feeding mum due to the demands of breastfeeding, but some of these extra calories can be met from using body fat stores, so breastfeeding can help with post-pregnancy weight loss. Have a look at our website for advice on eating well while breastfeeding.
Whether you are breastfeeding or not, it is important that you eat healthy meals and avoid eating too many high energy meals and snacks, and that you adjust your portion sizes to suit your appetite.
And don't expect to do 4 hours exercise a day. You can start to do some gentle exercise (walking, pelvic floor exercises, stretching) as soon as you feel up to it after your baby is born, but you should wait six weeks or so before taking up more strenuous exercise. Why not look at our website for some postnatal exercise tips?
Until next time.
Eating in the first few weeks after your baby is born
There are so many new things to think about when you've just had your baby that what to eat might not come high up on your list of priorities. But it is vitally important that you eat regular, nutritionally well-balanced meals to ensure you stay healthy and that you've got all the nutrients needed for successful breastfeeding.
There are no hard and fast rules on when and what you should eat in these early days. There are some 'old wives tales' recommending foods that should or shouldn’t be eaten, but there is little scientific support for most of these. I've heard it said that 'you need to drink milk in order to make milk' which might have been the case when foods were in short supply, but these days with a varied supply of foods available to most of us the energy, protein and calcium needed can come from other dietary sources. Similarly, although Italian mums might be told to avoid garlic, cauliflower, lentils and red peppers whilst breastfeeding, mothers and babies in India are perfectly happy whilst on a diet containing all these foods.
My best advice would be to eat and drink when you feel you need to; if you are breastfeeding, you may well find you're hungrier and thirstier than normal. Making milk 24/7 is extremely demanding and an inadequate diet could easily affect your health.
The following links on our website give you some other useful information on the foods you should include in your diet whilst breastfeeding, and foods to avoid. Perhaps you'd like to try some of our recipes too, or better still, get someone else to prepare them for you!
Until next time....
Tags: babies, bottle feeding, breast feeding, carbohydrates, dairy, dehydration, drinks, eating, foods, foods to avoid, healthy
Ideal foods for your hospital bag
So are you nearly there? After what may have seemed an eternity, is your pregnancy nearing the end?
For those of you at this stage, you may well be thinking about packing your bag that you take with you to the hospital and wondering what snacks or drinks to put in it. Of course what you take will depend on your favourites and what you think you might fancy, but some suggestions that I can recommend to help keep your energy levels up and to keep you well hydrated during your labour might be dried fruit, dry biscuits, cereal bars, glucose tablets and bottles of water or isotonic sports drinks. Of course these are all things that you can pack in advance, but on the day you might think of adding some extras, such as some fresh fruit, a sandwich or a yogurt. Don’t worry about whether these foods are healthy or not, but I suggest you keep away from any foods high in fats as these can make you feel very uncomfortable and may make you be sick!
Often mums in labour aren’t really thinking about food at all or may not be able to face eating anything. But if your labour is dragging on a bit, or if you do feel like eating something, then I suggest you stick to nibbling on snacks. A big meal will probably not be an option and you really won’t feel like it anyway. It’s a good idea to keep any eating or drinking during labour to ‘little and often’ and probably only in the early stages of labour.
Depending on how long your labour lasts, you may or may not need the glucose tablets to keep you going and the isotonic sports drinks may or may not be necessary, but best to go prepared.
And as for foods that might bring on your labour and therefore your hospital trip? - we did a survey of nearly 1800 new mums and perhaps not surprisingly of the mums that responded to the question “If you ate a particular food to try and bring on labour, what was it and did it work?”, eating ‘spicy food’ including curries came out as top favourite choice, followed by drinking red raspberry leaf tea and eating pineapple. In many cases these didn’t work, but many would argue they were worth a try!
Good luck with your preparations.