Sorry in advance for the click-baity title. However, since becoming pregnant myself, this article's been brewing inside me... Just like my future baby. I'm soo sick of hearing "oh, you can eat that, you're pregnant" when it comes to all manner of things like chocolate, cake, fried food, you name it. So here's why you might want to rethink that thought.
First, allow me to repaint this image for you: Your pregnant wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, best friend, etc, is growing a new life. They're feeding a developing brain and human, not a garbage disposal.
This idea that pregnancy is a free pass to eat whatever the hell you want is bull. I'm calling it. There's enough evidence to show that smoking and drinking are bad for pregnant women, right? Well, you know what? Here's some evidence that shoving copious amounts of cake, candies, caramels, corn dogs, and cookies down your pie hole whilst pregnant isn't all that different.
A recent CDC report stated that 47% of pregnant women in the US gain too much weight whilst pregnant. Ok, so here are the 10 things you should think about when you're reaching for your 6th snickers bar with the convenient excuse of "it's fine, I'm pregnant"...
Research shows gaining too much weight during pregnancy (or being obese prior to becoming pregnant) increases your child's risk of obesity. No one wants to predispose their child to obesity and the slew of health problems that accompany it like high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, sleep apnea, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc, etc.
Along that same vein, high total fat and/or visceral fat in mothers in their first trimester is an independent predictor of dysglycemia (abnormal levels of sugar in the blood that can lead to gestational diabetes). No, that doesn't mean your baby will be extra sweet.
Following on quite nicely is that a combination of pre-pregnancy obesity and maternal diabetes showed an increased risk of autism and other intellectual disabilities in children. Yes, you are building and feeding a human brain, take some responsibility.
Women with gestational diabetes (a condition during pregnancy where blood glucose levels are abnormally high) were more likely to have a larger baby at birth, and that baby is at greater risk of being overweight/obese at 7 years old. No, a big baby doesn't mean a healthy, well nourished baby... Read thing 5.
Women who are overweight or obese during pregnancy have increased risk of depression and delivery complications. Given what you just read in thing 4, this is because overweight/obese mums are more likely to develop gestational diabetes, which leads to larger babies at birth. Larger babies are more difficult to deliver vaginally (1, 2) - think: Large basketball, small hoop.
High blood glucose levels/gestational diabetes during pregnancy are also associated with heart defects in babies. Good news: A healthy diet during pregnancy reduces risk of heart defects. More good news: Gestational diabetes and elevated blood sugar levels are easily prevented and managed.
Research shows a woman's diet while pregnant impacts her baby's body composition at birth and later in life. Meaning, a poor diet during pregnancy may lead offspring to carry more visceral fat (the dangerous abdominal kind) and again, be predisposed to the chronic diseases listed in thing 1.
The amount and ratio of omega 3 vs omega 6 fatty acids plays an important role in brain development. A recent mouse study found that both diets high in omega 6, and low in omega 3 fatty acids caused abnormal brain development and lasting effects on an offspring's mental state (eg: anxiety). More research is needed, but ladies... think "hook, line, and sinker" (more on that here and here).
A diet high in junk food during pregnancy changes a baby's brain chemistry. It decreases sensitivity to the joys of fatty/sugary foods, meaning those kids need to consume more of those foods to feel satisfied. More junk food means more calories, means more weight gain... Chronic illnesses listed in thing 1.
Women who ate high junk food/high fat diets during pregnancy had higher instances of children with behavioural problems.
So to recap:
- Lots of junk food during pregnancy predisposes your baby to a slew of health issues
- If you're eating a lot of junk food, you're missing out on important nutrients that help grow and nourish a human
- No, you cannot fix everything by taking your prenatal vitamin
- We've talked about vitamins a-plenty, and yes, while they are necessary to supplement certain nutrients during your pregnancy, they do not "make up" for or "reverse" your crappy diet
recommendations are given by pre-pregnancy BMI:
- Underweight (BMI <18.5) gain 28-40lbs
- Healthy/normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9) gain 25-35lbs
- Overweight (BMI 25-29.9) gain 15-25lbs
- Obese (BMI >30) gain 11-20lbs
Final parting message from one preggo to another: Look at pregnancy as a reason to better yourself and your diet, not an excuse.