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Healthy dieting during pregnancy can help you reduce dangerous complications

Jenny Decker RN's picture

A new study has shown that dieting during pregnancy can help you reduce dangerous complications.

Although pregnant women have been warned for generations not to diet while pregnant, a new study in the British Medical Journal shows that eating a healthy diet that is guided by dieticians and other resources may actually help reduce some complications associated with pregnancy. Obesity is not only a rising threat to the general population, but for those expecting 20 to 40 percent of European and American pregnant women gain more than the recommended weight during pregnancy. Half of the women in the US who are of childbearing age are overweight or obese.
The healthy diet and weight gain can help reduce and improve outcomes to both the mother and baby, with no significant adverse effects noticed on the baby, yet also providing healthy benefits on the newborn. Some of the benefits include a reduction in pre-eclampsia, a reduction in gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension, and a decrease in the numbers of pre-term labor and delivery.

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However, even with this study, the researchers make it clear that it is important that weight management interventions that are effective and safe need to be identified. It still remains that extreme dieting can be harmful to both the baby and the mother. Diets that have a high glycemic index can also be harmful in pregnancy. With extreme dieting, mothers become less energetic, loss muscle mass, and cannot support the growing fetus.

In the research which included an analysis of many studies, dietary and lifestyle interventions had no adverse effects on having a smaller baby. Of interest, it was found that dietary changes alone were more effective than just increased physical activity or combined diet and physical activity. Fetal and newborn outcomes from the dietary change and interventions included decreased intrauterine deaths, decreased birth trauma, decrease in bilirubin, and a reduced risk of shoulder dystocia. Effects on the mother were listed above.

Effects on fetal weight from diets in pregnancy have long been the largest concern of women dieting while pregnant. However, with this study it was shown that there were no adverse effects on fetal weight. Yet, for those women who tended to develop gestational diabetes with resulting large babies, these babies tended to be smaller in size and this decreased the stress during labor and delivery that is often due to a large baby.

This study has added a significant amount to the information that researchers and experts already know about dieting and pregnancy. We already know that excessive weight gain during pregnancy can cause some serious adverse maternal or fetal outcomes. Interventions that are targeted towards excessive weight gain can help to decrease these types of outcomes. The study adds that it is okay for a pregnant woman to be on a healthy diet and change her lifestyle in order to reduce the more than recommended weight gain. The best news is that the fetal weight is relatively unaffected.