The old adage 'eating for two' is something most pregnant women have heard, and possibly even said at some point during their pregnancy. But a new study has shown that this motto can have a lasting impact on both mother and baby - and it's not a good one.
It's not just about weight gain, however. According to the study, if a woman gains too much or too little weight during her pregnancy, it can have adverse effects on the baby. For example, the study found that women who put on significant weight during their pregnancy were more likely to have children who were significantly larger at birth, as well as have insulin resistance and high blood pressure. Experts also predicted that those children born with a higher body mass index (BMI) were also at increased risk for diabetes, heart disease or stroke later in life.
Incidentally, the same negative effects were also found to be present for women who gained too little weight.
The study, which was based out of Hong Kong and published in the September 17 issue of Diabetologia, followed 905 mother-child pairs and analyzed their weight gain throughout pregnancy. From this group, 42 per cent gained around 15 kilograms (approximately 33 pounds) from pre-pregnancy to delivery. A total of 41 per cent exceeded this range, and 17 per cent were found to not gain enough.
According to lead researcher, Professor Wing Hung Tam, education is crucial when it comes to teaching women about the implications of weight gain during pregnancy. He recommends dismissing the 'eating for two' theory as well, claiming it could be harmful.
"What a pregnant mother needs is a balanced diet meeting such requirements with adequate micronutrients," he said. "[She] also needs to have moderate exercise to avoid putting up excessive weight gain.”
While the study's main focus was on the adverse health effects of the child, Hung Tam also explained that a pregnant woman's eating habits could also affect her own health in negative ways, including the possibility of gestational diabetes.
This latest research study comes on the heels of a similar study published in 2017 that showed the phrase 'eating for two' greatly overestimates a woman's calorific needs during pregnancy, when in fact pregnant women should only increase food consumption by a few hundred calories per day.
In May 2009, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) made changes to the guidelines concerning pregnancy weight gain. It states that the recommended weight gain for pregnant women of average weight is 25-35 pounds.