Eating for two?

0749 Dr Fysh - Sep 17, 2018

If pregnant women had a pound for every time they have been told ‘now you’re eating for two’ they would have, well, a lot of money. The belief that when you are carrying a baby you can (or even should) significantly ramp up your calorie intake is as old as it is misguided.

That’s not to say there won’t be days when you feel especially hungry and you should, of course, eat well but deliberately setting out to cram in extra calories is not the way to go. Most women will only need an additional 300 calories a day to sustain their pregnancy. That’s one slice of peanut butter on toast.  

Eating too much risks additional problems. If you put on excessive weight during pregnancy you increase your risk of gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure and back problems. It can also contribute to an increased likelihood of interventions at birth and the need for a caesarean section.

Society’s insistence that expectant mothers should be drastically upping their diet could be part of the reason that one in three women put on amounts of weight considered to be medically excessive.

There is evidence that many women feel that pregnancy legitimatises eating as much as they want. As well as potential issues during the pregnancy and birth this can also make it especially hard to lose weight and return to a more appropriate diet after the baby arrives. It can also store up trouble for the baby. Chief Medical Officer for NurtureFirst, Dr W John Fysh, says:

“Recent recommendations are directed at trying not to make your baby overweight as that could influence body composition and increase the risk of adult problems such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular problems.”

What about if you’re carrying twins – or more? Multiple pregnancies use up about 10% more calories than a singleton. That is not a lot of additional food.

So how much should you eat? The Institute of Medicine in the United States recommends that pregnant women eat three meals and two snacks day which works out at 340 calories a day in the second trimester rising to 452 calories in the third.

One thing you should be trying to increase your intake of is certain nutrients. Women who are pregnant or trying to conceive should boost their folic acid intake and make sure they are getting enough vitamin D. If you’re taking a vitamin supplement, make sure it’s one formulated for pregnancy to avoid taking in too much vitamin A, which can be detrimental to your baby.

So try to ignore all the ‘eating for two’ stuff - you’re not. You’re eating for one, with a little bit extra to help you along the way.

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About Dr Fysh

Dr Fysh

Dr Fysh is one of the country’s leading consultant paediatricians, currently a consultant at The Portland Hospital for Women and Children, and a Fellow of the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health and the Royal College of Physicians. Having experienced first-hand the suffering caused by serious medical conditions to babies and young children and the emotional and financial strain that this can place on parents on a daily basis. He joined the board of directors as Chief Medical Officer and has been instrumental in the building of the NurtureFirst product. 

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