Posted by William on October 5, 2012
The controversial findings of the longitudinal, population based, birth cohort study were published last January in the British Medical Journal.
Proceed With Caution
Dr. Kathleen Berkowitz, a Southern California-based obstetrician/gynecologist who specializes in high-risk pregnancies, cautions expectant mothers to take a closer look at the study’s findings before diving headlong into a weight gain regimen in hopes of producing a larger baby.
“It’s not simply an issue of bigger is better,” Berkowitz says, clutching a full-text copy of Richards’ British Medical Journal article. “It’s more an issue of the right weight seems to be the best, and, according to the study, the right weight is an average six to nine pounds. Basically, less than six pounds was bad and more than nine pounds was bad. The higher cognitive scores fell somewhere in between. Though the findings appear valid, a lot of questions are left to be answered.”
Berkowitz says pregnant women need to focus less on producing a girthy baby, and more on helping their baby reach a healthy, mid-range birth weight.
Putting on the Pounds
Expectant moms might want to consider what they’re in for before reaching for that second helping of lasagna or gorging themselves on dessert. Most obstetricians advise no more than a 25- to 30-pound weight gain during pregnancy, although this guideline varies for underweight and overweight women. The 25- to 30-pound guideline is based on achieving the least risk for complications during pregnancy and labor and the least risk of stillbirth.
Not only is gaining more than 30 pounds during pregnancy uncomfortable; it’s also dangerous. Plus, it takes that much longer to get back down to your pre-pregnancy weight if you gain more than the amount recommended for your specific height and weight.
“Women who put on upwards of 50 pounds during pregnancy face more risks. They’re looking at increased risk for a traumatic birth, a higher likelihood of an unplanned C-section and preeclampsia (toxemia),” Berkowitz warns.
Fit Moms, Healthier Babies
So how can pregnant women plump up their unborn babies without gaining unhealthy amounts of weight? The best odds combo, according to Berkowitz, is nourishment, exercise and quality prenatal care. Don’t forget to consult your obstetrician first before altering your diet and/or exercise routine in any way.
Berkowitz’ basics for boosting your baby’s birth weight include:?
Get early and consistent prenatal care. “We don’t know exactly what it is about regular prenatal care that improves the baby’s outcome, but it does,” she says. “It’s probably a matter of having access to more information about nutrition and overall health.”
Begin taking prenatal vitamins as soon as possible after confirming pregnancy. Prenatal supplements, although never a substitute for actual food, are chock full of essential vitamins and minerals that nourish Mom at a time when her baby saps her regular supply of nutrients.
Exercise regularly and with caution. “Assuming all is well in her pregnancy and that her doctor has given her the OK, a pregnant woman can begin working out anytime,” says Berkowitz. “Start slow and work your way up while keeping in mind that your maximum exercise tolerance is quite different when you’re pregnant.”
Note: Dr. Berkowitz advises against weight-bearing exercises during pregnancy, citing increased falls and stress on the joints. Instead, she recommends water aerobics, walking and other low-impact and no-impact exercises.
If you smoke cigarettes, quit. Cigarette smoke is never a good thing; it contains carcinogens and other poisons that may cause low birth weight and contribute to fetal stress.
“So what’s my motivation for all of this?” a nauseated, chronically tired pregnant woman might ask. The answer is simple: “The more in shape you are, the better you and your baby will get through the birth,” says Berkowitz. “Childbirth is the hardest thing a woman will ever do. If you’ve worked your way up to it and have taken good care of yourself along the way, you’ll have less aches and pains, and the baby’s weight is more likely to be normal.”
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