Study: Pregnant women should monitor diet

October 31, 2008 7:30:00 AM PDT
If you're pregnant, there is a new reason to watch what you eat. A study released overnight says if you don't, you could put your baby and yourself at risk during birth.

Having a big baby can also set you up for a dangerous delivery. But researchers say too many women are gaining too much weight during pregnancy. The study followed 40,000 women and found one in five gained too much weight.

Eating for two -- the phrase that serves as a green light to many pregnant women to indulge and eat whatever they want. But a new study from Kaiser Permanente says pregnant women need to pay better attention to what, and how much they eat.

"The actual caloric increase requirement for pregnancy is actually very small - 100-200 extra calories per day. That translates to one to two pieces of fruit, or one to two pieces of bread a day," said Tracy Flanagan, MD, obstetrician, gynecologist.

Mary Pearsall definitely ate more than that. She suffered from morning sickness - and often ate to try and make herself feel better. She says she ate fruits and veggies - but also gave in to her ice cream cravings.

"I also gained a lot of weight and I don't quite understand that," said Pearsall.

"You gained more than 40," asked ABC7's Amy Hollyfield.

"Yes I did actually - 40 plus," said Pearsall.

The study found that women who gained more than 40 pounds during their pregnancies were nearly twice as likely to have a big baby. It happened to Mary.

"Lucy was 9 pounds 9 ounces - which is a pretty big baby," said Pearsall.

A big baby increases the chance of problems for both baby and mother in delivery. Moms can tear, bleed and face a higher chance of having a C section.

"Babies that are big are more likely to get stuck, and when babies get stuck - there's a higher chance of an injury to that baby when trying to get the baby out safely," said Flanagan.

Lucy was so big -- her mom labored for more than 24 hours.

"Her shoulder did get stuck and she did have some distocia - nerve damage for a couple of days," said Pearsall.

Lucy didn't move her arm for the first week of her life -- a result of her difficult delivery. This is what researchers hope their findings will help women avoid. But Mary isn't sure what she could have done differently. She admits she ate a lot, but she also exercised regularly.

"I feel like I treated myself in a very healthy way, more than I ever have in my life - so its hard to say why I gained more than the average," said Pearsall.

Researchers hope this study will help open up the conversation between doctors and patients - so they can discuss weight at the beginning of the pregnancy and come up with a game plan. This study can be found in the November issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.


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