Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Why Pregnancy Diet and Weight Gain Matter

Have you been told you don't need to eat for two during pregnancy? Maybe you've heard that your baby will just take what it needs from your body. Has someone shared a story of how she hardly gained any weight and still had a healthy baby? Perhaps your doctor warns you to watch your weight at every prenatal appointment. There's a lot of conflicting information out there about pregnancy nutrition. Who do you believe?

Old Wive's Tales Hurt Your Baby

There are so many "old wive's tales" about pregnancy -- most of them are just silly or harmless. But some old rumors about pregnancy are actually dangerous. The belief that your baby can "steal" what he or she needs from your body is false -- not to mention dangerous to you and your baby.

Your baby can't take what he or she needs from your body. And even if your baby could, it would leave your body depleted, giving you a greater chance of pregnancy complications, a dangerous childbirth experience, and a hard postpartum recovery. There's no reason for any of that -- and there's no reason for you to have a premature or low-birthweight baby because your baby couldn't get the nutrients he or she needs.

Your pregnancy diet matters because your body has to build your baby completely over the nine months of pregnancy. It also has to prepare your uterus, muscles, and blood supply to handle the intense demands of pregnancy and breastfeeding!

You do need to eat for two during pregnancy. You may not be literally doubling your intake of food every day, but you should pay close attention to what you eat. You want meals packed with nutrition, especially with protein and good fats. Protein builds your baby's body and helps your body stay in good shape. Healthy fats help build your baby's brain and help you handle the emotional ups and downs of pregnancy (plus good fats help keep your skin looking nice).

You Need to Gain Weight

You might hear about moms who gained close to nothing and still had healthy babies. Your nurse may scold you for putting on weight and tell you that you only have a few more pounds before you're at your "limit"! But the truth is, weight gain during pregnancy is important.

Low-birth weight babies are at higher risk of almost every health problem possible. They're much more likely to suffer from slow growth during childhood. As they grow, they've more likely to have diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Low-birth weight babies are harder to give birth to than babies of average birth weight. They're also much more likely to have to spend time in the NICU, or neonatal intensive care unit.

A mother who gains very little weight during pregnancy is far more likely to have a low-birth weight baby.

Mothers who are not gaining weight are generally not eating enough. This makes pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, pre-term labor, and pre-eclampsia (toxemia, HELLP) much more likely.

Controlled studies on weight gain during pregnancy show that weight gain is variable between moms -- some moms gain less, some gain more. But the studies all agree that mothers who gain too little are at far more risk for pregnancy complications and newborn health problems than mothers who gain more weight. In fact, it's important to weigh yourself during pregnancy to make sure you're gaining enough, rather than too much!

Eat nourishing, homemade foods that you've prepared from fresh ingredients. Get plenty of protein, good fats, and moderate carbohydrates (from green vegetables, starchy vegetables, and fruits) and your baby and your own body will be healthy and strong.

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