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.
Preparing for pregnancy with a healthy diet
Whether you’re planning your first baby or you’re thinking about having another, a healthy diet makes good sense for both you and your partner. Your eating, weight and lifestyle habits have a significant influence on your health, your fertility and once you’ve become pregnant on the growth and development of your unborn baby.
Now is a great time to reassess your diet and to check that you are eating a wide variety of healthy foods. You need to have a good balance between starchy carbohydrate foods; moderate amounts of protein foods; low fat dairy products and plenty of fruits and vegetables. A healthy balanced diet should supply you with all the nutrients you need, but one vitamin that is particularly important pre-conceptually and in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is folic acid and so you should take extra folic acid (400mcg/day) in the form of a supplement during this time.
There are also a couple of other nutrients that need special attention at this time. You should make sure you’re eating enough iron-rich foods to build up your body stores in preparation for your pregnancy, so include red meat, fish, poultry, beans, dark green leafy vegetables and wholegrain cereals regularly. Omega 3 fatty acids play a critical role in the development of the brain and nervous system of a baby so it is a good idea to top up your stores of these too by eating two portions of fish per week (at least one of these portions as oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel).
Both you and your partner should reduce your alcohol intakes in line with official recommendations and aim for a healthy weight. Being a healthy body weight can help you to conceive – being very underweight or obese can reduce your chances of conceiving, and being obese while pregnant can increase the risk of complications. And for your partner, it is worth checking the diet contains enough zinc and selenium containing foods as these have been shown to be linked with sperm quality. Lean red meat, wholegrain cereals, seafood and eggs are good sources of these nutrients.
If you want to read more, here are two good links which you may find useful:
Until next time....
Tags: carbohydrates, dairy, healthy, iron, minerals, obesity, pregnant, prepare, preparing for baby to arrive, supplements, vitamins, zinc
How big a problem is being obese or overweight for children?
Not a week goes by without hearing something in the news about the rising problem of obesity in this country. It’s something we should all be concerned about, especially when you hear how many children are affected. Around one third of all children in the UK are currently above a healthy weight and this number is increasing year on year. It’s estimated that by 2050, two thirds of children will be obese or overweight.
There are of course some serious consequences of being obese, including an increased risk of coronary heart disease, strokes, diabetes and other health problems. Most parents are understandably keen to ensure that the eating patterns their children develop are healthy ones and I’m often asked by parents if the amounts of foods their babies are eating are normal or whether they are eating too much and at risk of becoming overweight. As I said in my last blog, making sure your baby is active is important too.
Starting weaning at the correct time and not too early (recommended weaning age is 6 months, although some babies may need weaning earlier, although not before 4 months) is key to reducing obesity risk. Once weaning has started, you should encourage your baby to eat a varied, balanced diet; unhealthy eating can ‘programme’ young children’s tastes for the rest of their lives. Weaning babies on pureed junk food, chocolate bars, crisps and fizzy sugary drinks just isn’t an option!
For more information on a good diet to feed your baby, have a look at these links:
Your health visitor will advise you on how often you should get your baby weighed to check they are gaining weight at the correct rate, and if you have any concerns you should have a chat with them.
Goodbye for now.
The importance of a healthy lifestyle for our children
The last few weeks have seen a huge amount of media coverage on the impact of diet and activity levels on the long-term health of our children. This follows the publication of two Government reports looking at these important areas.
The Department of Health commissioned SACN (Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition) to review the influence of maternal, fetal and child nutrition on the development of chronic disease (e.g. obesity, heart disease, diabetes) in later life.
They have also issued guidance on the level of activity we should all, including children, should undertake.
These reports highlight how important it is for us parents to encourage our children to take regular and sufficient physical activity and adopt a healthy lifestyle. Of course, we’re often hearing about how a good, well-balanced diet with sufficient, but not too much, energy is vital for good health at all stages of life, but this is the first time we’re being told how much exercise our young children should actually be doing.
In the UK, pre-school children have been shown to spend on average 2-2.5 hours a day being active, but the new recommendation is that they should do at least 3 hours per day, once they can walk unaided. This could be any form of activity, ranging from riding a bike, running, climbing, jumping, skipping, walking to swimming. Even before they can walk unaided, you should encourage your baby to take part in floor-based play such as rolling, reaching for and grasping things, pulling and pushing objects, and water-based activities. The report also discourages all of us from keeping our under 5s restrained in buggies, car seats or baby bouncers, or leaving them sitting in front of TV or computer screens, for extended periods.
Are your children active enough, what is their favourite activity, do you have any issues with this new recommendation, is this advice practical for you and your family? We’d love to hear from you.
Off for a run now!