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Health Watchdog Recommends Weight Loss Before Pregnancy

28/07/2010

THE UK government health watchdog has advised mothers to lose weight before having a second baby.

By James Tweedie

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) issued its new guidelines in July.

Women can put on anything from a few pounds to several stone during pregnancy. But NICE recommended that however small or great the weight gain, mothers should lose it all before getting pregnant again.

They warn that overweight mothers who do not slim down to their pre-pregnancy weight before trying for a second pregnancy put themselves and their babies at risk of serious complications.

It said that health professionals are battling an "epidemic of obesity" among pregnant women, with around half of women of childbearing age reported to be overweight or obese.

King's College London director of maternal and foetal research Professor Lucilla Poston, who co-authored the guidelines, said overweight women were vulnerable to "almost every complication in the book during pregnancy."

Babies born to overweight mothers are more likely to grow too large in the womb, leading to an increased risk of a stillbirth or of the child's shoulders getting stuck during labour, which can cause permanent muscle damage.

Obese mothers can also produce babies with a dangerously low birth weight, due to placenta failure, and are at greater risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy, NICE said.

The agency insisted that the old wives' tale that pregnant mothers must 'eat for two' is a myth, and that new mums should not be afraid to start losing weight soon after giving birth.

The panel of health experts who produced the guidelines said that while many women say that they feel much hungrier during pregnancy, they do not need to increase their calorie intake at all during the first six months.

From months seven to nine they only need an extra 200 calories per day -the equivalent of a small cereal bar or two bananas.

University of Dundee professor of food choice Annie Anderson said: "It's not desirable to eat for two during pregnancy: that's one of the myths.

"The energy requirements don't increase until the third trimester, and then only slightly.

"We do recognise that pregnant women feel hungry, but it's about managing that hunger by eating whole-grain carbohydrates and avoiding sugary snacks."

But NICE advised women against trying to lose weight during pregnancy, warning that it could pose a risk to the unborn child.





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