Dr. Lela Emad of the Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group shares some insight into a recent study pertaining to maternal nutrition and how a mother’s poor diet may predispose children to obesity
A new study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis points to the likelihood that a mother’s high-fat, high-sugar diet can impact not just immediate offspring with genetic abnormalities and chronic health conditions, but as many as three generations into the future.
According to results of this research, regardless of whether offspring of an overweight mother opt to consume healthy diets themselves – their lifetime heath will be affected with potentials for obesity-related conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. The unique factor in this study revealed that even before becoming pregnant, a woman’s lifelong obesity can cause health issues for future generations. Researchers say that this study should serve as a wake-up call for U.S. women of child-bearing age as more than two-thirds are currently overweight or obese.
“Findings such as these help to point out that eating a healthy diet every day as well as during pregnancy is one of the best things women can do for themselves and their baby,” says Dr. Lela Emad of Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group in Santa Rosa, California.
When Eating for Two is Too Much
The amount of weight a woman should gain during pregnancy depends on what her body mass index (BMI) was before becoming pregnant. As a general rule, pregnant women need to consume more protein and calcium, take appropriate vitamins and mineral supplements (folic acid and iron in particular), and consume more calories.
But eating better doesn’t necessarily mean over-eating. Women who start off at a healthy weight need to consume only about 340 extra calories a day during the second trimester and about 450 extra calories per day during the third trimester. Women who are underweight or overweight at the beginning of pregnancy require some adjustment to the average, depending on individual weight gain goals. Consulting with an OB/GYN healthcare provider is the best way to determine projections for healthy weight gain during pregnancy.
“Obviously, the food a mother consumes while pregnant is the baby’s main source of nutrition. And by making healthy lifelong food choices combined with an eye toward eating nutritiously during pregnancy a woman can have a positive impact on her baby’s health as well as potentially; her grandchildren’s children,” points out Dr. Emad.
Women who are overweight or obese before pregnancy are also expected to gain a certain amount of weight during pregnancy, but according to recent studies – women who are obese can safely gain less weight than the guidelines recommend. A healthcare provider will determine what’s best for each case and will also help manage weight throughout pregnancy.
Overweight Mothers Are at Risk
In addition to affecting the health of a baby, women who are overweight before pregnancy are also at an increased risk of developing various pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pregnant women who are obese are more susceptible to complications including preeclampsia, GDM, stillbirth and cesarean delivery. CDC research shows that obesity during pregnancy is associated with an increase in the need for healthcare services, and can result in longer hospital stays for delivery. But the good news is; overweight women who lose weight before pregnancy are much more likely to have healthier pregnancies.
According to Dr. Emad, when women are thinking about having a baby it is best to begin making healthy lifestyle changes at least one full year prior to trying to get pregnant. This process improves the chances of becoming pregnant sooner and prepares a woman’s body to provide the best environment for her infant – nutrition, exercise and a healthy weight are all key factors in planning ahead. “Eating nutritiously is a good choice for any woman to make, but particularly important for a woman who is considering having a baby – one that can potentially impact the health of her family for generations to come,” says Dr. Emad.
About Women’s OBGYN Medical Group
The provider team of expert OB/GYN physicians, certified nurse midwives, family nurse practitioners, and medical assistants provides unmatched care to patients in our region. As women proudly serving women, we understand the needs and expectations of our patients. For more information, call (707) 579-1102 or visit our website.