- Most women, nearly half of those in the childbearing age are overweight or obese.
- Overweight and obesity can increase the risk of obesity and non-communicable diseases in the offspring.
- Moderate exercise and healthy diet reduces the risk of excessive weight gain, cesarean section in pregnant women.
Weight gain during pregnancy is normal and is essential up to a certain extent. But being overweight before conception is a risk factor as it may add along with the required weight gain during pregnancy.
The excessive weight can in return increase the risk of complications during pregnancy such as diabetes, cesarean section, preeclampsia. Also it puts the offspring at risk of non-communicable diseases.
‘Diet and physical activity based interventions during pregnancy reduce gestational weight gain and lower the odds of cesarean section.’
A recent study has come up with a solution to manage a healthy pregnancy and reduce the risk of complications for the mother and the fetus.
According to a study led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) pregnant women who have a healthy diet and regular moderate exercise are less likely to have a caesarean section. The risk of gain excessive weight, or the chances to develop diabetes in pregnancy is also reduced.
Data was collected from major electronic databases from October 2013 to March 2015 were collected for the study. The main aim was to update details on the diet and physical activity based interventions in pregnancy.
Thirty six randomized trials which included data from 12, 526 women were obtained. The main objective was to find if there is any lifestyle change that has a protective effect on maternal and offspring outcomes.
Two main factors which otherwise have benefits for overall health is effective during pregnancy as well.
- Healthy Diet - A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, dairy and avoiding sugar sweetened beverages, salted snacks and alcohol.
- Physical activity - A healthy bout of moderate intensity exercise which includes aerobic classes, stationary cycling, and resistance training for muscle groups.
Professor Shakila Thangaratinam from QMUL's Barts Research Centre for Women's Health said: "Our findings are important because it is often thought that pregnant women shouldn't exercise because it may harm the baby. But we show that the babies are not affected by physical activity or dieting."
The additional benefits include a reduction in maternal weight gain, diabetes in pregnancy, and the risk of requiring a caesarean section.
"This should be part of routine advice in pregnancy, given by practitioners as well as midwives. Now that we're able to link the advice to why it's beneficial for mothers-to-be, we hope mothers are more likely to adopt these lifestyle changes," she added.
Compared to the pregnant women in the control group, those who followed a healthy diet and exercised had a 0.7kg reduced weight gain. They also had a 10% lesser chance of a cesarean section.
Professor Thangaratinam said: "For every 40 mothers who follow the healthy diet and moderate exercise, one less woman will end up with a caesarean section."
Gestational diabetes affects nearly 1 in 10 mothers and increases risk of pregnancy complications but changes in lifestyle reduced the risk of diabetes in pregnancy by 24 percent.
Professor Thangaratinam added: "Often with interventions like these, certain groups benefit more than others, but we've shown that diet and physical activity has a beneficial effect across all groups, irrespective of your body mass index (BMI), age or ethnicity; so these interventions have the potential to benefit a huge number of people."
The effect of the intervention in the offspring was not assessed.
Stillbirth, underweight or overweight births, or admission to a neonatal intensive care unit was not accounted for. The vast majority of the population in the study had a medium-to-high education, a factor favouring compliance with interventions.
The lack of adverse effects of exercise should reassure mothers who have traditionally been advised not to undertake structured exercise or manage their diet in pregnancy.
- Shakila Thangaratinam et al., Effect of diet and physical activity based interventions in pregnancy on gestational weight gain and pregnancy outcomes: meta-analysis of individual participant data from randomised trials, The BMJ (2017)