By Nancy Da Silva
You should expect to gain between twenty-five and thirty-five pounds throughout your pregnancy. However, since over half of all women in North America are classified as overweight, what complications could pregnancy weight put on both your and your baby’s health if you start off overweight?
Chances for problems like high blood pressure or premature births increase dramatically in cases of an overweight pregnancy. There’s also an increased risk that your baby will have to be delivered by cesarean section. There is also a greater risk of stillbirth or miscarriage.
How to Increase Chances for a Healthy Full-Term Baby
The first and probably most important thing you can do also rests on the assumption that you’re planning to get pregnant. Once you have made the decision to try and conceive, it’s time to get in the best possible shape that you can. You want to give your potential baby the healthiest environment to grow and develop in.
Notify your doctor and gynecologist of your intention to get pregnant so they can do a physical check-up to pinpoint any areas of concern now or problems that may arise throughout your pregnancy.
Make exercise a daily habit. You may find that as you exercise, your menstrual cycle becomes irregular and ovulation becomes disrupted. If you were irregular before because of your weight gain, you may find that exercise helps your periods actually stabilize into a dependable cycle after your body becomes used to the activity. If your weight gain hasn’t affected your cycle, you may find with exercise that your periods may be irregular for a short while. Once your body begins pumping healthy oxygenated blood through your system, your periods will return to their normal cycle. For this reason, overweight women may take longer to conceive than women in the normal weight range.
The biggest change you need to make will be in your diet. All the exercise in the world won’t help you if you’re feeding unhealthy foods into your body, like the processed foods from fast food restaurants. Also, foods high in refined sugars and flour, like pastries and donuts, should be avoided. It’s okay to indulge every once in a while, but remember what the goal is. A healthy body weight equals a healthy you and a healthy you increases the chance for a healthy baby.
What Happens When the Pregnancy Comes as Surprise?
You weren’t planning to become a parent now. You haven’t had time to ready your body to be in peak physical condition to give your baby the best start in its development. Are there still things you can do even at this point, if you are overweight, to help your baby develop normally and decrease any health risks to both of you?
The thing to keep in mind is that, even if you’re already overweight going into the pregnancy, your doctor will probably advise you that you should be gaining a further fifteen to twenty-five pounds. But because this will have to be a healthy weight gain, you will need to get your body into good shape as soon as you discover you’re pregnant. This means implementing exercise and a change in diet immediately. While some doctors caution against any sort of dramatic weight loss, researchers are trying to determine if it’s all right for an overweight woman to lose a considerable amount of weight while avoiding any harm to the fetus. The main concern is that the fatty acids in your body will not be completely metabolized if carbohydrates are limited and proteins are increased, as is the case in most restrictive diets. The ideal diet then must become more about balance than restriction.
Healthy foods rich in iron like dark vegetables and meat are vital, as is calcium for your baby to develop strong bones and teeth. If you’re lactose intolerant, there are calcium supplements available and there are calcium-rich foods besides those with lactose that you can consume, like almonds, salmon, dark leafy greens, and even rhubarb.
Before starting any exercise program, if you’re overweight, you must get a thorough checkup and cardiovascular exam. These exams must become a regular event throughout your entire pregnancy. Being overweight puts you in a dangerous conundrum of wanting to lose weight and be healthy, but not wanting to change your body’s dynamic so much that you cause damage to your baby.
You want to stay active but you don’t want to overdo it. Because your joints become especially sensitive during pregnancy and you’ll be feeling considerable pressure on your back, high impact anything is out. Brisk walking and swimming are good options. Comfortable and consistent are keywords to remember. If you can, join an exercise class specifically catered to pregnant women; your doctor may be able to recommend one.
Overweight women are more likely to suffer from depression than women who maintain a healthy weight. Throw in the fluctuating pregnancy hormones that wreak havoc on even the healthiest of women and is it any surprise that rates for depression in overweight pregnant women go up? Because of the baby, your doctor may be reluctant to prescribe antidepressants. If you’re already on antidepressants when you’re pregnant, the problem becomes trickier. If you stop taking the medication, your depression will probably flare up. When you’re stressed, the baby’s stressed and that puts him at risk. If you’re already on medication and therapy, your doctor may prescribe more intensive therapy for you and slowly wean you off the antidepressants for the duration of your pregnancy. Cutting you off completely may cause more harm to the fetus, depending on the medication, so the doctor will just prescribe lower and lower doses as the months go by. An outside support system of friends and family is vital to help through the transition.
The most important thing to remember is that your baby is completely dependent on you. You want to do your best to keep him safe and give him the best start in life and that means keeping yourself physically and emotionally healthy.