Pregnant women warned not to 'eat for two'
Pregnant women who "eat for two" are putting themselves at risk of long-term obesity, a study has found.
The extra weight could put both the expectant mother and the baby at risk and lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, later in life.
The long term research, undertaken by Bristol University, adds to mounting evidence that being overweight during pregnancy can have harmful effects on both mother and baby.
Guidelines specifically advise against eating for two. They suggest that in the first six months of pregnancy, a woman’s recommended energy intake of 1,940 calories a day does not change.
In the final trimester, pregnant women need around 200 extra calories a day, equivalent to two slices of toast with butter.
The study found that women who gained more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy were three times as likely to be overweight, or become “apple-shaped,” 16 years later.
But women who were within the normal range and gained only the recommended weight were much less likely to go on to become obese and develop related health problems.
The number of obese women falling pregnant has more than doubled in the past 20 years, to 15pcof all mothers.
Overweight women are more likely to be overdue and have more complicated births, research suggests.
Maternal obesity has become one of the biggest risks in childbirth. In 2007 it was found that half of all women who died during pregnancy or soon after giving birth were overweight.
High risk caesarean sections carry increased risk of potential complications including infection, bleeding and clots while babies born to overweight women are at greater risk of diabetes and obesity.
The Bristol University team used Body Mass Index to monitor 3,877 mothers in the west of England during pregnancy and again 16 years later. The findings showed that women who were underweight before pregnancy weighed on average two stones more when they gave birth.
The women were advised to gain a maximum of two stones 11lb. Women of healthy weight put on two stones 5lb, on average. Overweight women gained an average of one stone 12lb, while obese women gained one stone 8lb.
Dr Abigail Fraser, the report’s main author, said: "Our findings suggest that regular monitoring of weight in pregnancy may need to be reconsidered because it provides a window of opportunity to prevent health problems later in life.
“You don’t need to eat for two in pregnancy because this will cause you problems in later life, and is also linked to a higher risk of your baby becoming obese in childhood.”
The results will be published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.