Why Your Diet and Weight Matter Before, During, and After Pregnancy

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Pregnancy diet matters

Watch what you eat even before you get pregnant
Even before conception, diet can contribute to adverse pregnancy outcomes such as preterm birth. A recent study in Australia showed that a diet consisting of several protein-rich food sources, fruit, and some whole grains for 12 months before conception reduced the likelihood of having a preterm delivery (less than 37 weeks gestation) whereas a diet high in junk food (e.g. high fat/sugar/take-out food) resulted in an increased likelihood of preterm birth.1

In addition, obesity has been linked to problems for couples trying to conceive. In a study of 3029 couples, when compared with women whose weight fell in the normal or overweight range, women who were severely obese, (body mass index [BMI] of 35) were 26% less likely to get pregnant and women who were morbidly obese (BMI of 40) were 43% less likely to get pregnant.2

Obesity or excessive weight gain during pregnancy
The most obvious effect of regularly eating junk food is excess weight gain during pregnancy. As well as making it much more of a challenge to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight after birth, being obese or too much weight gain during pregnancy can also result in complications during pregnancy and delivery. A study in The Netherlands found that obesity during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension, preeclampsia, ceserean delivery, and larger-than-normal babies. Similar effects were seen for excessive weight gain during pregnancy, especially weight gained during the first trimester. However, the effects from weight gain were not as strong as the effects from obesity.3

What happens in the womb does not stay in the womb
Not only does weight gain and/or a bad diet affect your health, it can have serious consequences for your baby. In the study mentioned above, maternal obesity and, to a lesser effect, excessive weight gain during pregnancy were also associated with childhood obesity.In a study of 40,000 women, it was estimated that excessive weight gain during pregnancy increased a child’s risk of obesity by 8%. The researchers stated that this could account for several hundred thousand cases of overweight or obese kids each year worldwide.4

Recommended weight gain during pregnancy5

  • Underweight women should gain around 28 to 40 pounds
  • Normal weight women should gain around 25 to 35 pounds
  • Overweight women need to gain less weight-around 15 to 20 pounds depending on their pre-pregnancy weight
  • If you are having twins, you need to gain quite a lot – try to aim for a weight gain of around 28 to 40 pounds.

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  1. Grieger JA, Grzeskowski LE, Clifton VL. Preconception dietary patterns in human pregnancies are associated with preterm delivery. The Journal of Nutrition. 2014;144(7):1075-1080
  2. Van der Steeg JW, Steures P, Eijkemans MJC, Habbema JDF, Hompes PGA, Burggraff JM, Oosterhuis GJE, Bossuyt PMM, van der Veen F, Mol, BWJ. Obesity affects spontaneous pregnancy chances in subfertile, ovulatory women. Human Reproduction. 2007;23(2):324-328.
  3. Gaillard R, Durmus B, Hofman A, Mackenbach JP, Steegers EA, Jaddoe VW. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014;21(5):1046-1055.
  4. Ludwig DS, Rouse HL, Currie J. Public Library of Science Medicine. Pregnancy weight gain and childhood bodyweight: a within-family comparison. PLoS Med. 2013. 10(10):e1001521.
  5. nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/patientinstructions/000617.htm
Melody Watson
Melody Watson holds Bachelors degrees in Biochemistry and Microbiology. She works as a medical writer for a medical communications agency in Berlin, Germany, where her work ranges from medical translation to writing publications for medical journals. Melody is passionate about promoting science, including evidence-based medicine, and debunking pseudoscience.

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