CMO Professor Dame Sally Davies’ report states that maternal obesity is on the rise, and poses major health risks for both mother and baby.
Dame Sally’s research reveals that obesity is not only likely to cause complications during pregnancy, but also compromises the health of children in their growing years.
According to the report, which closely examines women’s health conditions in England, 51 per cent of England’s women are currently overweight or obese.
Furthermore, an obese mother could suffer from a variety of issues ranging from decreased fertility to increased chances of miscarriage, gestational diabetes and related complications.
For the foetus, an obese mother could increase chances of stillbirth or metabolic and developmental abnormalities.
Dame Sally’s report also suggests that there is a vicious cyclical pattern in the way a mother’s poor lifestyle can affect the child in the long term.
“The majority of future parents do little or nothing to prepare for pregnancy,” Dame Sally says. “A high proportion of women have an unhealthy lifestyle before pregnancy, with poor diet, low levels of physical activity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and use of recreational drugs.”
Dame Sally suggests that poor mental health is common in individuals with an unhealthy lifestyle. “Many women are affected by domestic violence before and during pregnancy, with adverse impacts on obstetric, maternal and child outcomes.”
The notion that expecting mothers must now eat for two rather than one is an age-old myth many doctors and nutritionists are trying hard to dispel.
According to the NHS, dietary and lifestyle improvements significantly improve both, chances of conceiving as well as the health of the foetus.
Lifestyle nutritionist Dr. Viddhi Dhingra says: “The caloric requirement for pregnant women goes up by only 300 calories a day in the third trimester. So eating for two would result in definite weight gain.”
“Expecting mothers should aim to consume the right nutrients rather than just increasing the calories. This would not only translate to a healthy pregnancy but also a healthy baby,” Dr. Dhingra adds.
A Kenton-based General Practitioner says: “Women should monitor their Body Mass Index (BMI) and maintain it at 18.5 to 24.9. To do that, they must eat a healthy diet which includes folic acid, and must stop smoking and consuming alcohol and recreational drugs.”
He further added that “being physically active, even for a short while a day, can go a long way improving one’s health. The NHS recommends light exercises that are safe to do as well.”
Overweight mothers, however, argue that it is easier said than done. “It takes a lot of will power to ignore cravings when they occur. And sometimes there’s little you can do if you have a tendency to put on weight anyway,” says Claire Neal, whose doctor told her that her weight could risk her baby’s life.
She added, “If you don’t eat, you get moody and depressed. And that leads to binge eating. It’s a vicious cycle.”
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