The "eating for two" habit is adopted by many pregnant women - but if you think about it, is this really a good idea? Who is going to benefit from it? Are we harming anyone in the process? Are we doing the best for the little baby growing inside of us?
According to the South African guidelines, calorically, during the first trimester you do not need to make any changes, and during the second and third trimester you need to add only 300 calories a day - that is approximately a sandwich with a protein filling plus a fruit or yoghurt.
New evidence coming from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (a UK institute working with the National Health Services) for weight management during pregnancy suggests that women do not need to change their diet at all during the first 6 months and only need to add 200 calories (sandwich with protein filling) in the last 3 months.
Obesity and complications
These new guidelines were developed as it has been suggested that 15-20% of women who fall pregnant are overweight or obese. Women who are obese when they become pregnant face an increased risk of complications such as diabetes, miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, blood clots and death.
Obese women are also more likely to have an induced or longer labour, post-delivery bleeding and slower wound healing after delivery. For women who have gained weight between pregnancies, even a relatively small gain of 1-2 BMI units can increase the risk of high blood pressure or diabetes during their next pregnancy and may also increase the chance of giving birth to a large baby.
It is important to note that although the guideline is not to gain too much weight during pregnancy as increased weight puts your baby at risk, it is not advised to try to lose weight during pregnancy either.
Provide good nutrition
The most important thing is to make sure that you provide good nutrition for you and your baby. Your growing baby gets all it’s nourishment from you through the umbilical cord, so diet is very important. If you are lacking in any vitamins and nutrients, your baby might lack in them too.
A well balanced diet means eating something from all the food groups - whole grain carbohydrates, fruit, vegetables, low fat dairy, low fat protein and healthy fat:
- The food pyramid gives you a good idea of how to eat - eat mostly grains, then add veggies and protein, fruit, dairy and finally use fatty foods sparingly
- Variety is very important to make sure that you get enough of the daily recommended vitamins and minerals from your food, prevent boredom and keep you enjoying your food
- Protein is the building block for your baby’s body, so ensure that you get enough. About 75g per day is sufficient (you can get this from 2 glasses of milk, and 2 palm sized chicken/meat pieces)
- Important vitamins and minerals are folic acid (important for the formation of baby’s nervous system - barley, beans, fruit, green vegetables, orange juice, lentils, peas and rice), iron (needed to produce all the blood needed to supply nutrition to the placenta - liver, meat, poultry fish, egg yolk, legumes, dried fruit, cereals), and calcium (needed for the development of the embryo - milk, cheese, yoghurt, broccoli, fish with bones e.g. pilchards)
- Also remember to drink enough water; remember that other fluids such as juice and sodas may add unnecessary calories
- Junk food can and will always be a part of most of our lives. And a small amount of something will not be detrimental to your baby or undo all of your "good" eating. Just avoid going overboard with this food as although it provides great comfort, it is not the best nourishment you can do for you and the baby. A great guideline is taste the food rather than fill up on it.
Remember that weight gain is a necessary part of pregnancy. Normal weight gain is between 10-12kg. If this is broken down into the three trimesters, normal gain is about 1-2kg in the first trimester, 300-400g a week in the second trimester, and 1-3kg per month in the third trimester.