Prenatal Weight Gain
I love it when research confirms what I already know and am doing.
Shelley Wilkinson and H. D. McIntyre started a program in Australia called “Healthy Start To Pregnancy” in Australia. Their premise was that women given information and tangible guidance at the beginning of and during pregnancy will have better outcomes.
The researchers compared 182 “Usual Care” women, i.e. women who received routine prenatal care from the Maternity Hospital to 178 women who enrolled in the Healthy Start to Pregnancy Program, a low intensity, behavior modification program. The program consisted of (2) one hour prenatal workshops (one at the start of the program and one midway through) presenting information on healthy nutrition, exercise , information on smoking cessation, information on appropriate weight gain and Breastfeeding education . The women who participated in the program were also given written information to which they could refer. The researchers found that approximately half of the study women completed the study. The researchers found that significantly more women in the study met the prenatal guidelines for consumption of fruits and vegetables and for exercise than women not in the study. The study women were also more likely to be in range for appropriate weight gain. There was not a significant difference between women who quit smoking or intended to breast feed between the study and non-intervention groups.
I believe that studies of this nature are important and highlight some really important habits that we here in the United States need to notice. While most (but not all!) women in the United States have access to good quality prenatal care, just as it was shown here, medical prenatal care alone is not enough to ensure healthy prenatal outcomes. Women need tangible information and as this study shows, having access to support and guidance further enhances outcomes. Many obstetrical offices offer birthing classes and breastfeeding basics. But classes targeted specifically to prenatal nutrition and exercise have significant impact on compliance and on outcomes.
One thing that the researchers noted and I have seen in my practice as well, programs have to be easily accessible so women can participate. Hospital based programs, while often good aren’t always the best venues. Many women get their prenatal care at offices that may be close to work but would prefer to exercise closer to home for example. Other women may only have access to public transportation so they will make the trek to see their health care providers but not necessarily for a fitness or nutrition class. And when I was teaching prenatal fitness, having childcare was a must-especially at morning classes. Now add the twist of women on bed rest and we now need to integrate technology so that ALL mamas can reap the benefits of these proven behavior strategies.
We’re getting there. As awareness of the necessity of behavior modification during pregnancy (and during many other phases of a woman’s life) rises, my hope is that the US medical community will recognize the great benefit of such programs on health and promote more of these programs. As you all know, I am “Pro Action”, working to maintain rather than fix once broken. I believe that if in the US we can adopt a more “Pro-Action” stance, especially as it pertains to pregnancy and prenatal care, we can improve outcomes as well as improve women’s overall pregnancy experiences.
Bedrest Coach Darline Turner-Lee reviews research findings stating that reducing excessive weight in pregnant women that have gained too much weight improves outcomes. Citing “Effects of interventions in pregnancy on maternal weight and obstetric outcomes: a meta-analysis of randomised evidence”, Darline summarizes the researchers findings, mainly that in pregnant women who have gained too much weight during pregnancy, dietary modification alone is currently appearing to be the most effective way to help mamas lose weight, stay healthy and avoid potential pregnancy and birth complications.
Darline also shares some tips for making healthier food choices. For example, a healthy snack should be a combination of a complex carbohydrate and protein. When choosing fats, try to choose Omega 3 Fatty acids (found in fish oils and olive oils) and to choose lean cuts of meat and poultry. Her suggestions are by no means exhaustive and we here at Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond ask that you mamas share any more healthy diet tips in our comments section below. Check out our great selection of prenatal nutriton books in our Amazon A Store!!