Study Says Diet During Pregnancy Is Safe, Reduces Risk Of Complications
A new study published in the May 18 issue of the British Medical Journal finds that it is not only safe for a pregnant woman to go on a diet, but it can even be benficial and reduce the risk of dangerous complications.
The study, which analyzed 44 relevant studies comprised of more than 7,200 women, looked at the effects diet, exercise or both had during pregnancy, specifically how much weight women gained throughout pregnancy and whether a mother or child suffered any complications as a result.
Doctors already know that excessive weight gain during pregancy increases the risk for complications such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, but many in the medical community are reluctant to give out weight loss advice for fear that it would harm the mom and baby's health.
While the researchers found that all three methods reduced weight, diet showed the greatest effect with an average reduction of almost 9 pounds. Pregnant moms who only exercised lost about 1.5 pounds, and moms who did a combination of diet and exercise lost an average of 2.2 pounds.
Researchers found that diet was tied to health benefits for pregnant moms, with women on a calorie-restricted diet 33 percent less likely to develop pre-eclampsia, a spike in blood pressure caused by significant amounts of protein in the urine. The risk of gestational diabetes was also 60 percent lower with a calorie-controlled diet, the risk of gestational high blood pressure was 70 percent lower, and the risk of premature birth was also reduced 32 percent in dieting moms.
"Weight control is difficult but this study shows that by carefully advising women on weight management methods, especially diet, we can reduce weight gain during pregnancy," lead researcher Dr. Shakila Thangaratinam said.
"What we don't know is why diet should be so much better than exercise in controlling weight gain," Thangaratinam added, saying, "It could be that it is simpler and easier for women to stick to. It may also be that eating a high-fiber diet has other positive health effects for a pregnant woman."
She said it also shows that following a controlled diet, based on limiting overall calorie intake, balancing protein, carbohydrates and fat, and eating foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes, has the potential to reduce the risk of a number of pregnancy complications.
According to the CDC, obesity during pregnancy affects about one of five pregnant women in the U.S., and in addition to the aforemented complications, excess weight gain also leads to more use of inpatient and outpatient health care services, longer hospital stays, and more time spent with a doctor.
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