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Pregnancy weight gain

It’s natural to wonder about pregnancy weight gain. Here’s what you need to know before you step on the scales.

If you were overweight when you got pregnant…

“Dieting is really discouraged,” says Joel Ray, a clinician-researcher in medicine, obstetrics and gynecology at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. It really comes down to removing some of the simple sugars, such as fruit juice, white bread and white rice, he says, and substituting more slowly digested alternatives, like whole wheat bread and brown rice.This keeps a lid on blood sugar levels, which in turn helps prevent the baby from growing too large (which can lead to difficulties during delivery).

Spreading the day’s food intake over six smaller meals and snacks instead of three bigger meals also keeps your blood sugar on an even keel. When you arrange your plate, have half the plate veggies, one quarter protein, and one quarter carbohydrates, such as rice, potato or noodles. “It’s not so much how much you’re eating, as the quality and type of food,” says Kris Robinson, a clinical midwifery specialist for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

Treat yourself to a new cookbook, and experiment with healthy foods you haven’t tried before. Prepare big batches of cut, washed veggies and stash them in the fridge to encourage healthy snacking.

If you were underweight when you got pregnant…

Stats say 19.5 percent of Canadian women aged 20 to 34 are underweight—which means a substantial minority of moms-to-be are too. So what are the health considerations unique to underweight pregnancy?

First, the good news. According to a 2001 study, underweight women actually run a slightly lower risk of certain complications—including pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and postpartum hemorrhage—than moms-to-be in the “appropriate” weight range. They are also less likely to have labour induced, a forceps delivery or a C-section. On the other hand, low pre-pregnancy weight is linked to a higher risk of premature birth, and of having a baby that’s smaller than expected, which may increase the risk (though small) of extra TLC in the neonatal intensive care unit.

If you’re concerned about gaining too much weight during your pregnancy…

While being underweight prior to conception has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight, some studies suggest that part of that risk is actually related to gaining too little weight during pregnancy.

If you don’t take in enough calories to build up the 25 to 30 pounds needed for the baby, placenta, extra blood supply, etc., you’ll end up with a net weight loss, says Jan Christilaw, an obstetrician/gynecologist and VP of medicine at BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver.That may affect your underlying health, for example, sabotaging the strength of bones and muscles. “And if you’re not getting enough nutrition during pregnancy, your baby will not grow properly,” she says.

In the end, most experts recommend that expectant moms—of all sizes—consume a diet in keeping with Canada’s Food Guide: rich in veggies, whole grains and lean protein, such as chicken, soy and fish, and low in unhealthy fats and simple starches. Speak to your doctor or your Pharmacist to make sure you’re eating healthy.