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Pregnancy is ‘no excuse’ for eating for two, according to study

Mothers-to-be don’t need to eat for two during pregnancy. As someone who is currently five months pregnant, this was not the news I wanted to hear.

According to new Australian study findings from the University of NSW, a number of hormonal changes that pregnant women experience — from changes in gut bacteria to resistance to insulin and leptin, a hormone associated with the feeling of being full — allow their bodies to absorb more energy from food.

So, rather than eating more calories in a day, mums can continue on with their usual diet and their baby will get all the nutrients they need.

Like I said, not the news I wanted to hear. At some points during pregnancy I’m absolutely ravenous and I’ve always been more than happy to justify making a second chicken salad sandwich (or, more likely, reaching for a second Tim Tam), safe in the knowledge that my body is nurturing two human beings and, therefore, requires more fuel.

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UNSW researcher Professor Tony O’Sullivan says the findings “suggest the need for reassessment of nutritional advice given to pregnant women, as current advice to increase energy intake may be increasing the risk of excessive gestational weight gain”.

He also warns that women who substantially up their food intake during pregnancy may put on too much weight, putting them at risk of pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia.

I had gestational diabetes during my last pregnancy; ask any pregnant woman who has endured a glucose tolerance test and they’ll tell you it’s not much fun at all.

Worse still is being given a positive diagnosis.

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And the real kicker comes when you’re told that, although you’ll more than likely return to your pre-diabetic state once the baby is born, your chances of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes later in life are extraordinarily high.

“Having had gestational diabetes means you probably have the genes that make you at risk for getting type 2 diabetes,” advises the Australian Diabetes Society.

“If you are overweight, any weight loss is good. A loss of 6kg or more will substantially reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”

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They’ve shared this healthy weight guide to help Australian mums work out what weight range they should aim for once their baby is born. While no pregnant woman should ever diet during pregnancy, this new study shows that avoiding overeating has plenty of health benefits.

healthy weight chart
Image: Better Health Channel/Victorian Government

Are you at risk of being diagnosed with gestational diabetes during pregnancy? According to the Victorian Government’s Better Health Channel, the following risk factors could increase your changes of developing gestational diabetes.

Women who are:

  • Aged over 30 years
  • Have a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Are overweight or obese (see weight chart above)
  • Are of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent
  • Are of particular cultural groups, such as Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, Polynesian and Melanesian
  • Have previously had gestational diabetes
  • Take some antipsychotic or steroid medications
  • Have previously had a baby whose birth weight was greater than 4.5 kilograms
  • Have had a previous complicated pregnancy

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