‘I used breastfeeding as an excuse to eat sugary snacks’
PUBLISHED: 19:33 07 August 2018 | UPDATED: 15:18 11 August 2018
Increasing numbers of pregnant women are overweight and figures suggest this region could be worse affected than many other parts of the country.
The old saying about eating for two during pregnancy could be helping fuel escalating maternal obesity.
Information about how much women should eat during pregnancy is still not reaching many families, potentially putting the health of pregnant women and their unborn children at risk, according to experts.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) is working with Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to bust the ‘eating for two’ myth and make it easier for people to understand how to make health choices during pregnancy to avoid unhealthy weight gain.
In a survey last year the National Charity Partnership, a link-up between Diabetes UK, the BHF and Tesco, found more than two thirds of pregnant women didn’t know how many extra calories they need to consume during pregnancy and more than six in ten reported feeling under pressure from others to eat larger meals than normal.
That’s something Sarah Pearsons can relate to.
She signed up to weight loss organisation Slimming World when her daughter, Betty-Rose, was five months old.
“I was breastfeeding and had used this as a reason to consume sugary snacks,” says Sarah. “I’d often eat a packet of biscuits for breakfast, so the weight continued to pile on.
“I had to change my old habits, but wanted to make sure I was following a safe and healthy plan for me and Betty-Rose. In four months I lost three stone (with Slimming World) and achieved my dream weight, a weight I’d never seen in my adult life.
“I was able to continue enjoying our favourite meals such as curries, chilli con carne and anything with chips. As a busy mum energy levels were always going to be important so the fact you never have to feel hungry with was the key.
“My husband enjoys the same meals and as soon as my daughter started eating solid food she joined in too. I’m really proud to know I am setting my family up for a happy, healthy future full of real food.”
Before returning to work from maternity leave Sarah decided to take the plunge and become a Slimming World consultant.
“At 34 weeks pregnant with baby number two (in June) I was still almost a stone lighter than when I joined Slimming World back in September 2016,” she says.
Because of her own experiences and what she has learned since becoming a Slimming World consultant, the issue of maternal obesity is one that is of huge concern to Sarah.
“I have had the privilege of supporting a number of pregnant and breastfeeding members in my Martlesham Heath group and know that they have benefitted from the same boost in energy as I have,” she says.
“Being heavily pregnant with my second child this summer opened a number of concerning conversations with health professionals and really highlighted to me the issue we are facing with maternal obesity and therefore the risks attached for both mother and baby.
“Government statistics show almost half of pregnant women attending their first maternity appointment have an overweight (26%) or obese (21%) BMI. This is frightening when Public Health England advises that maternal obesity (defined as obesity during pregnancy) increases health risks for both the mother and child during and after pregnancy. Women who have an obese BMI during pregnancy also have an increased risk of gestational diabetes, miscarriage, needing a Caesarean delivery and pre-eclampsia.
“Slimming World works in partnership with the Royal College of Midwives to support pregnant women and breastfeeding mums to manage their weight healthily through pregnancy and beyond.
“We have an adapted version of our Food Optimising eating plan, especially for pregnant members. The plan encourages plenty of healthy fresh foods like fruit and vegetables, lean meats, poultry and pulses, pasta and potatoes, while encouraging extra portions of certain foods to help support energy needs and a good balance of nutrients such as calcium and fibre. With the Royal College of Midwives we have created a joint website offering advice and health tips to mums and mums-to-be (www.slimmingworld.co.uk/mums). It’s a topic I feel really passionate about and we would love to welcome more pregnant women and new mums.”
Sarah’s group runs on Tuesday evenings at 5.30 & 7.30pm at St Michael & All Angels Church, Martlesham Heath.
To find your nearest Slimming World group see here.
The local picture...
According to government advice, “energy needs do not change in the first six months of pregnancy” and women only require around 200 extra calories per day in the last trimester of pregnancy. This is equivalent to two pieces of wholegrain toast with olive oil spread or a small handful of nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
But the survey for the National Charity Partnership, suggests more than one in three pregnant women believe they need to eat 300 or more extra calories each day and around six in ten think they need to start consuming these extra calories in the first or second trimester.
Norwich and Norwich Hospital (NNUH) guidelines issued earlier this year for managing obesity during pregnancy say a UK-wide study published in 2010 revealed the East of England had the highest overall rate of women with severe obesity at any point during pregnancy. It adds: “The... report shows that the maternity unit at NNUH has a higher prevalence of class II and class III maternal obesity than the East of England or the UK.”