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Gaining a healthy amount of weight important during pregnancy

Jan 28, 2014
Most people know that gaining weight is a normal, healthy part of pregnancy––important for both mom-to-be and baby. What many don’t know is that there are recommendations for healthy weight gain in pregnancy that are based on the woman’s Body Mass Index (BMI) before she becomes pregnant.

Most people know that gaining weight is a normal, healthy part of pregnancy––important for both mom-to-be and baby. What many don’t know is that there are recommendations for healthy weight gain in pregnancy that are based on the woman’s Body Mass Index (BMI) before she becomes pregnant. 

Approximately 4800 babies are born in Simcoe Muskoka every year.  In a recent survey of hundreds of local pregnant women, more than 40 per cent of participants reported a pre-pregnancy BMI in either the overweight or obese category.  Based on their weight pre-pregnancy and their weight at the time of the survey, it was calculated that almost 60 per cent of these pregnant women were also exceeding their recommended weight gain rate.

Maternal and child health experts agree that starting pregnancy at a healthy weight and gaining a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy may reduce the risk of complications in pregnancy and during delivery, and may also reduce risks to the health of both baby and mother afterwards.  Babies of mothers with an overweight or obese BMI before pregnancy, who gain in excess of weight gain recommendations, are more likely to be born large for their gestational age. These babies may also be at increased risk of many health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life. Pregnant women with an overweight or obese BMI before pregnancy, who gain an excess amount of weight may also be at increased risk of requiring a Caesarean Section. All pregnant women who gain in excess of their recommended weight gain range may be at risk of not returning to their pre-pregnancy weight. Higher maternal weight is a factor which may increase health risks during subsequent pregnancies and is also associated with a number of chronic diseases in the future.

According to Canadian recommendations, women who have a higher pre-pregnancy BMI may need to gain a little less during a pregnancy, while those with a lower BMI may need to gain a little more. Every pregnant woman planning a pregnancy should speak with her health care provider early in her pregnancy about how much weight gain is right for her. In fact, getting support to achieve a healthy weight before pregnancy is the very best place to start. 

Two things women can do every day to help them gain a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy are eating healthily and being physically active. Eating according to Canada’s Food Guide, including the recommended number and size of servings will help pregnant women stay within a healthy weight gain range.  Health Canada notes that pregnant women need “just a little more food’ in the second and third trimesters, and it is now understood that ‘eating for two’ is the wrong message.  According to a recent local survey, more than a third of pregnant women reported eating fewer than the recommended 7-9 servings of vegetables and fruit – eating a vegetable or fruit at every meal and snack can help women get the servings of these nutrient rich foods they need each day.

Being active during pregnancy has many benefits for pregnant women, including contributing to healthy weight gain, more energy, improved mood, and better sleep. Being active can be as simple as walking on a regular basis, starting at 15 minutes three time each week, and working up to 30 minutes four times each week. It’s recommended that pregnant women check in with their health care provider before changing their activity level.

To help pregnant women eat healthily and stay active, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is offering a free Healthy Pregnancy Action Kit to pregnant women in its communities. The action kit contains a prenatal exercise DVD, recipe cards, a grocery list pad, and more.

To get your free Healthy Pregnancy Action Kit, for more information about health before pregnancy or how to have a healthy pregnancy, contact Health Connection. This is a free and confidential health information and advice service.  Call 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., visit Facebook and Twitter, or email via the website at www.simcoemuskokahealth.org.

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Dr. Surry is one of Simcoe Muskoka’s associate medical officers of health and a paediatrician.


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