Why ‘eating for two’ is a pregnancy myth

You don’t have to ‘eat for two’ during pregnancy – gaining only a healthy amount of weight is better for mum and baby.

If you’re pregnant and your appetite is out of control, you’re not alone.

More than a third of mums-to-be feel the same way, according to a recent UK study.

But too much weight gain during pregnancy increases the risk of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and having a heavier baby, which can lead to complications during delivery, say the researchers.

And the effects of excess pregnancy weight can be long-lasting for mum and bub, with many women struggling to lose weight after pregnancy. Their babies are twice as likely to be obese by the age of 15 as well.

Brisbane obstetrician Dr Gino Pecoraro agrees gaining too much weight during pregnancy isn’t helpful.

“The more fat you have, the harder your heart has to work. And labour is like intense physical activity so if you are overweight and unfit, it will be harder for you to labour,” he says.

“There’s also evidence that women who are overweight have a higher chance of pre-eclampsia and needing intervention in pregnancy.

“Higher blood pressure and diabetes can affect how the placenta works, so there’s increased risk of prematurity, and some evidence suggests the environment a baby is exposed to in utero may predispose them to being overweight later in life, too.”

So how much should you eat during pregnancy?

Pregnant women only need an extra 300kJ to 900kJ a day.

A slice of wholemeal bread or half a tub of natural yoghurt equals around 300kJ – so that’s a few extra slices of bread at most.

“In the early part of pregnancy, frequent small, carbohydrate-rich meals help with the nausea and lack of energy,” says Dr Pecoraro.

“Women do need more iron to help the placenta and blood cells and more calcium to help the placenta work and for their baby’s bones.

“But women have stores of vitamins and minerals and the average Australian diet has more than enough protein and calories to grow a baby. The baby gets what it needs, and mum gets what is left.”

Recommended pregnancy weight gain

If your pre-pregnancy Body Mass Index is:

  • Less than 18.5, aim to gain 12.5-18kg
  • 5 to 24.9, aim to gain 11.5-16kg
  • 0 to 29.9, aim to gain 7-11.5kg
  • 30+, aim to gain 5-9kg

Source: Institute of Medicine

To calculate your BMI, take your weight in kilograms and divide it by your height squared (for example, 80kg divided by 1.75 x 1.75).

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Written by Sarah Marinos