overweight and pregnant

Overweight and pregnant

If you are very overweight and pregnant you may feel bombarded with information on the risks this may pose during and after pregnancy. Most women who are overweight do have healthy pregnancies. However, being overweight does increase the risk of complications for both you and your baby.

Good antenatal care can help to minimise these risks.

Some of the most common pregnancy complications associated with being overweight or obese are:

  • Gestational diabetes (GDM).
  • High blood pressure.
  • Pre-eclampsia – this can happen where there is a probem with the placenta.

Your labour starting too soon ,or it could also raise the chance that your pregnancy will go over the due date and it’s more likely that your labour will be induced.

The ultimate advice is to lose weight before becoming pregnant. This isn’t so easy as not all women who become pregnant are at a healthy weight to begin with.

Thankfully, there are steps to take and changes to make if you are overweight and pregnant, which can contribute towards ensuring your pregnancy runs a smooth course.

overweight and pregnant

Eat for nourishment

A good diet is a vital part of any pregnancy. Although, you may not literally be eating for two, you are nourishing your baby.

Eating the right foods and keeping energised can be the foundations of a healthy pregnancy. Eat nutritious and wholesome meals or choose frequent healthy snacks throughout the day.

Choosing more high-fibre foods can help to keep weight at healthy levels. Go for lots of fruit and vegetables, high-fibre cereals, wholegrain breads as well as beans (e.g baked beans, chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils).

Your lunch and dinner should be one-third lean meat such as chicken, fish, eggs or beans, one-third carbs such as pasta, rice, potatoes or bread and one-third vegetables.

Folic acid

Women who are obese when pregnant need an extra helping of nutrients than those who are of average weight. Folic acid is an essential in any pregnancy, but if you are overweight you will need to take a higher dose of a folic acid supplement, which can be prescribed to you by your doctor.

Obese pregnant women are also advised to take a Vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy and if breastfeeding.

Keep an eye on weight gain

Obese women are not likely to gain as much weight when pregnant as those who are underweight or of average weight. The amount of weight pregnant women should gain is determined by their body mass index and their weight prior to becoming pregnant.

Try to monitor your weight gain throughout your pregnancy; your doctor or midwife will also help you with this. See dietitian Aveen Bannon’s advice on weight gain below.

Keep active

Keeping physically active during your pregnancy is a great way to keep healthy. According to the HSE, unless there are any medical conditions, obese pregnant women should be encouraged to exercise during and after pregnancy.

The best exercises to take up are walking and swimming, these can be enjoyed throughout your pregnancy. You can gradually increase your walking pace over time and swimming is a fun and gentle way to keep active.

overweight and pregnant

When it comes to the pregnancy diet, the same rules apply to all women. You are more likely to gain less weight if overweight or obese. If you are obese, it is recommended that you gain between 7 and 11kg over pregnancy.

If your BMI is over 30, aim to gain 5 to 9kg. This can be discussed with your doctor.

Women who gain more are 50% more likely to develop gestational diabetes (GDM).

Eating healthy and being active can reduce your risk of some potential pregnancy complications like GDM, high blood pressure, pre-term labour, back pain and more.

Don’t try to lose weight.

Focus on healthy eating and getting all the nutrients you need during pregnancy.

Often, overweight women may find by eating a healthier diet they only gain very little weight or none at all, and this is fine as long as the diet is adequate nutritionally and they are not cutting out calories that may result in loss of nutrient intake.

I would suggest keeping a food diary so they can keep a record of what they are eating and track where the calories are coming from.

Don’t be afraid to seek help with your diet to ensure you are getting the right balance. A healthy diet is important irrespective of what weight you are.

Have lots of fruit and vegetables, these are rich in folic acid, which is vital for the development of your baby’s spinal cord and for healthy blood.

Have fibre for good gut function and Vitamin C to help iron absorption.

Oil-rich fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines contain omega 3 ‘DHA’ and ‘EPA’ fish oils, which aid your baby’s brain and eye development and are a good source of vitamin D.

Folic acid, which you get from green vegetables and fortified foods, helps prevent neural tube defects (NTD). You should take a folic acid supplement daily before and up to the 12th week of pregnancy. Vitamin D is vital for calcium absorption for healthy bones and teeth for you and your baby. Iron is also important, as it is needed to carry oxygen in red blood cells to all parts of our body.

Aveen Bannon – consultant dietitian, Dublin Nutrition Centre www.dnc.ie

Where does pregnancy weight go?

  • Baby: 7 to 8 pounds (about 3 to 3.6 kilograms)
  • Larger breasts: 2 pounds (about 1 kilogram) Larger uterus: 2 pounds (about 1 kilogram)
  • Placenta: 1 1/2 pounds (about 0.7 kilogram)
  • Amniotic fluid: 2 pounds (about 1 kilogram)
  • Increased blood volume: 3 to 4 pounds (about 1.4 to 1.8 kilograms)
  • Increased fluid volume: 3 to 4 pounds (about 1.4 to 1.8 kilograms)
  • Fat stores: 6 to 8 pounds (about 2.7 to 3.6 kilograms)

BMI Index

  • Underweight: BMI is less than 18.5
  • Normal weight: BMI is 18.5 to 24.9
  • Overweight: BMI is 25 to 29.9
  • Obese: BMI is 30 or more

More like this:

Dos and don’t of pregnancy
Preparing your body for childbirth
Embarrassing symptoms of pregnancy

Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.


Post-birth recovery

Pregnancy and giving birth are physically and nutritionally draining, so it’s important to give your body time to recover.



Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.