Healthy mum, healthy baby

A new resource provides a wealth of information on healthy weight gain and pregnancy.

Seventy-four per cent of women gain more weight during pregnancy than the Institute of Medicine guidelines suggest is healthy, a statistic that concerns Australian dietitian and author Melanie McGrice. Her recent book, ‘The Pregnancy Weight Plan,’ goes to the heart of this issue, exploring healthy weight and pregnancy from conception, throughout pregnancy and postnatal. Structured in these stages, her book offers detailed nutritional advice, meal plans, exercise tips and scientifically proven methods advising how to gain the right amount of weight safely during pregnancy. Examining the weight-related causes of infertility through to the impact excess weight gain has on mum and baby, Melanie’s practical book is a valuable resource for expectant women and those thinking about becoming pregnant.

Melanie’s idea for ‘The Pregnany Weight Plan’ came about after working as a dietitian for over ten years and repeatedly hearing women say they had struggled with their weight after the birth of their first baby. As Melanie explains, “many women think that once they have had their baby or start breastfeeding, the excess weight will just fall off, but it doesn’t always happen. You can’t rely on that. Prevention is much better than cure.” Empowering women by providing them with the information to attain realistic and achievable weight management, Melanie hopes her advice will ultimately help women deliver healthy babies.

Excess weight gained during pregnancy can have a significant effect on pregnant women and the health of their babies, a fact Melanie has found some of her clients are unaware of. “The reality is that when someone is overweight during pregnancy, the risks for both them and their baby significantly increase,” she explains. Increased risks of miscarriage, the likelihood of the mother becoming obese later in life, gestational diabetes and childhood obesity are all linked to excess weight and, as the book outlines, what you do during pregnancy really impacts on not only your health but the health of your child. As Melanie outlines, “even if women are a healthy weight before pregnancy, by putting on too much weight during pregnancy you can increase the risk of your baby developing childhood obesity”.

Looking at how much weight gain is safe, Melanie writes that there are guidelines based on Body Mass Index (BMI) but it is very individual and dependent on many factors. These include your weight before conception, the temperature, the number of babies you are having, your diet and the size of your baby. Women in a healthy BMI category (18.5 – 25) should aim to gain approximately 11.5-16kgs by the end of their pregnancy. As well as looking at the approximate recommended weight gain for women in higher BMI categories, Melanie also examines the risks of being underweight during pregnancy and ensuring the baby has enough kilojoules to grow to a healthy weight for delivery.

Today pregnant women are very focused on the foods they should steer clear of for fear of listeria, however Melanie points out that forgoing fresh food and opting for ‘cleaner, packaged’ junk food is not the answer. “Making sure you are meeting the five core food groups – low fat dairy, lean meat or meat alternatives, wholegrains, fruits and vegetables is so important,” she says. Even pregnancy multivitamins, while providing some nutritional requirements, can’t be relied upon alone to meet the requirements of pregnancy.

Advocating that women visit a dietitian at least once during their pregnancy, to ensure they are meeting all of their nutritional requirements, is a strong message of Melanie’s and one she hopes readers will take away from her book. She also believes women need to start visualising a meal plan as something very different to a diet. “Just because it’s recommended that women don’t diet during pregnancy doesn’t mean you can’t have a meal plan and an exercise plan,” Melanie shares.

With this idea of planning at the very core of ‘The Pregnancy Weight Plan,’ it’s sensible advice and offers a way of managing intake and ensuring women are meeting all of their recommended requirements for a safe, healthy pregnancy.

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