Diets during pregnancy and the consequences for the child

There are pregnant women who want to lose weight during pregnancy by following a weight-loss diet. Reasons for this are that childbirth is easier with a smaller child or that the mother is afraid of gaining too much weight. It is normal for a woman to gain a few pounds during her pregnancy. Is the weight gain only due to the growth of the baby or also due to the growth of the mother? Is dieting during pregnancy really healthy?

Easier delivery

A larger baby would cause more difficulties during delivery. It would cause extra pain and many women are afraid of this. They are afraid of tearing, having to be cut or that a natural birth may be impossible. With a smaller baby, childbirth would be easier and there are women who eat less to have a smaller child. It must be made immediately clear that a child with a low birth weight has a greater chance of developing all kinds of diseases. A mother who wants to give birth to a smaller child will seriously endanger the health of her baby.

Health risks for the baby

Losing weight during pregnancy is not recommended. The unborn baby is at risk of becoming deficient in necessary nutrients, which increases the chance that the baby will be born prematurely. A child with a low birth weight has a greater chance of developing various diseases, such as diabetes. In addition, the child runs the risk of developing behavioral problems and a lower IQ. Especially if there are too few nutrients for the child in the first half of pregnancy, the risk of poor brain development will be greater. Furthermore, the risk of autism and depression in the child is greater. Children with a low birth weight will later become overweight, with the associated risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Dinner for two?

Contrary to popular belief, the pregnant woman does not have to eat for two. In the first 3 months of pregnancy, the body builds up a stock of nutrients such as fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals that can be obtained from normal diet. There is no need to eat extra, but the quality of the food must be good. It is normal for a woman to gain a few pounds during her pregnancy. During the second and third trimester of pregnancy, the mother will have to eat extra because the baby now also uses the necessary calories.

Pregnancy in teenagers and the elderly

Studies have shown that teenage girls who are still growing deprive the developing fetus of nutrients. They still need the nutrients for the growth of their own body. Older women who are pregnant have stiffer arteries, which complicates the blood supply to the fetus. This means that fewer nutrients reach the baby. It is therefore very important for pregnant women in these age groups to get good nutrients.

Nutritional advice during pregnancy

It is important to pay extra attention to good nutrition during pregnancy. Especially during the first weeks of pregnancy because the development of the baby’s most important organs takes place. General practical tips such as sufficient exercise, sufficient relaxation, not drinking alcohol and a varied diet are known. A healthy diet generally involves the following on a daily basis:

  • 5 to 7 slices of (whole wheat) bread
  • low-fat margarine on bread
  • 3 to 5 potatoes
  • 3 to 4 serving spoons of vegetables
  • 2 to 3 servings of fruit
  • dairy products (2 to 3 glasses of milk)
  • cheese (1 to 2 slices)
  • meat, fish, chicken or egg (100 grams)
  • margarine or oil to prepare food
  • drink at least 1.5 liters of fluid

As a variation, potatoes can be replaced with brown rice or whole wheat pasta. It is of course allowed to occasionally eat something unhealthy such as chips or candy. If you do not want to gain unnecessary weight during pregnancy, this is not recommended. Be careful with liver products because they contain a lot of vitamin A, which can be harmful to the unborn child. It is recommended to use a folic acid dietary supplement before fertilization and during the first part of pregnancy.

Gaining weight during pregnancy

On average, women gain around 12.5 kilos during pregnancy. This can vary greatly from person to person. A baby usually weighs less than 3.5 kilos at birth. The question is where the remaining kilos are. These will be present in the following body parts: placenta, membranes, amniotic fluid, uterus, breasts, blood, maternal fat stores and retained fluid from the mother.

Advice for losing weight during pregnancy

As already indicated, it is unwise for a pregnant woman to lose weight because this can seriously damage the health of the child. If the mother does not want to gain weight unnecessarily, it is best to choose a responsible diet with sufficient exercise. Intensive exercise is not recommended. It is best to perform light to moderate exercise such as walking, cycling or swimming. A calorie-restricted diet for weight loss is recommended after childbirth or after the mother has stopped breastfeeding.
A smaller child may make childbirth slightly less painful, although this is not necessarily a guarantee, but this of course does not outweigh the health risks for the child.

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