Can your overeating during pregnancy cause child obesity?
‘Eat for two' is the most common advice that you will hear when you are pregnant. But this statement comes with an associated risk. Most women binge-eat during pregnancy, by following this advice too closely, and this often leads to unhealthy weight gain. Eating too much during pregnancy can make the mother sick as well. Following a diet that is poor in quality and being overweight are two major risk factors for gestational diabetes and heart disease in the mother. It also puts the child at the risk of obesity. This is why you need to watch what and how you eat during pregnancy.
Effects of overeating in pregnancy
Eating too much during pregnancy can make your blood overly saturated with extra calories, which reach your child along with other nutrients. Nine months of such exposure to calorie-rich blood can cause the child to store the calories, thus making him or her more prone to obesity.
Can overeating harm the foetus?
Yes, it can. Pregnancy weight gain is directly associated with childhood BMI. The child of a woman with higher weight gain during pregnancy has an 8 percent increased risk of being obese at an average age of 12 years. For women, who struggle with weight issues due to hormonal and medical disorders, trying to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy can have a lasting protective effect on the child. Even avoiding excessive weight gain during the 9 months of pregnancy can have long term beneficial effects on the future generation. So, the best time to prevent childhood obesity is prior to your child’s birth.
Ways to prevent excessive weight gain during pregnancy
Eating a diet that is unhealthy and overeating during pregnancy can put the baby at risk of developing long term, irreversible health conditions like obesity and high levels of cholesterol and sugars. Eating foods rich in fat, sugar and salt while being pregnant, can cause the child to overeat when he is born. He or she might show a liking towards junk food too. So, the mother’s diet while she is pregnant and breastfeeding plays a very important role in determining the long-term health status of the child.
Wondering how to stop overeating during pregnancy? Here are some tips:
- Consult your doctor: Consult your doctor before you do any sort of exercise during pregnancy. They can help you plan a routine and teach you things that you have to be careful about. They can also ask you to consult a dietician or a personal trainer who will help personalize your diet and exercise routine.
- Start eating healthy: Pregnancy can be the right time for you to start exercising and developing healthy eating habits. You can keep clearing your doubts with your doctor during your regular visits. Keeping your baby healthy can he a highly motivational factor for you to follow a healthy lifestyle.
- Start gradually: If you are starting any new kind of exercise, take it slow. Do not over exert at once. Begin slowly with ten minutes of exercise and then gradually increase the duration. Keep a goal of staying active for at least 30 to 45 minutes per day. Walking and swimming can be good options of exercise for you to start with.
- Maintain a journal: Keeping track of your habits will help you know if you have had adequate nutrients and had enough water in a day. You can even check if the foods that you are eating have lots of sugar or sodium, or if they are lacking in a particular nutrient. You can also use the journal to create a workout schedule and set a diet routine for yourself.
- Avoid empty calories: Avoid having fast food, fried food, microwave dinners, soda, pastries and sweets during pregnancy. Research has shown that changes in diet along with physical activity, rather than just physical activity, can help in the management of gestational weight gain.
- Do not follow fad diets: Fad diets are often calorie-restrictive and pregnancy is not the right time to try such diets. These diets can be nutritionally inadequate for the foetus too. It is better to make a long-term lifestyle change rather than a short term one.
- Do not do excessive workouts: Moderate physical activity will not cause any harm to the baby but strenuous exercise will. So, always listen to your body. If you start to breathe heavily, stop. If something hurts, take a break.
- Take a prenatal supplement: A prenatal supplement can help bridge any nutritional gap that might be present in a pregnant mother’s daily diet. A prenatal supplement also contains more folic acid to prevent neural tube defects, and more iron to help prevent anaemia.
The best way to stop overeating while you are pregnant is to focus on the quality of your diet and not the quantity. Sensible caloric restrictions by staying away from junk foods, daily diet self-monitoring, self-weighing, behavioural therapy and regular patient–doctor sessions are some of the interventions that can help in preventing excessive weight gain.