Eating nutritious food and maintaining a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy may help women avoid excessive weight gain, a new study reports.
Scientists analyzed 44 trials evaluating a total of 7,278 pregnant women to determine the potential benefits of diet, exercise and a combination of the two.
Overall, each of these interventions led to a 1.42 kilogram reduction in weight gained during pregnancy. The research team found that exercise alone appeared to reduce the babies' birth weight. All interventions were linked to a decreased risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy, as well as greater ease of childbirth at delivery. However, the researchers found that diet alone may be associated with the most significant reductions in weight gain and the best outcomes for both mother and baby.
The scientists concluded that adopting a healthy diet may be the most effective way to prevent excessive weight gain during pregnancy and ensure a positive outcome for the childbirth. Additional research is warranted.
It is important for an expectant mother to eat a healthy diet. Unless she has a specific health problem (such as diabetes mellitus or heart disease) common sense nutritional advice should be followed: balancing carbohydrates, fat and proteins and eating a variety of foods, including dairy products and several fruits and vegetables, daily. A pregnant woman should consult her obstetrician for specific advice. Some specific nutritional needs for pregnancy include:
Folic acid, also called folate or vitamin B9, is strongly recommended by healthcare professionals at the start of pregnancy and even before conception. Folic acid is needed for the closing of fetus' neural tube. The neural tube is the fetus's precursor to the brain and spinal cord. Folic acid thus helps prevent spina bifida, a very serious birth defect. Folates are abundant in spinach (fresh, frozen or canned) and are also found in green vegetables, salads, melon and eggs. In the United States and Canada, most wheat products, such as flour or noodles, are supplemented with folic acid.
Minerals, such as calcium and iron, are particularly needed by the rapidly growing fetus. Pregnant women should eat enough dairy products (for calcium) and red meat (for iron) if they are not lactose intolerant or vegetarian. Women who do not eat dairy or meat can obtain calcium and iron from fortified soy milk and juice, soybeans and certain leafy greens. Calcium is effective only if women also obtain enough vitamin D. Vitamin D can be made in the body after exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun or from food sources. Although milk is fortified with vitamin D, dairy products made from milk, such as cheese and ice creams, are generally not fortified with vitamin D. Cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines also good sources of vitamin D.
For more information about pregnancy and labor, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions Database.