March 2, 2009

Moms-to-be don’t have to ‘eat for two’

Pregnancy has been a time when a woman sometimes indulges in eating for two but U.S. researchers said this may contribute to child obesity.

Pregnant women have always been hands off, Dr. Robert Kushner, of the Northwestern Comprehensive Center on Obesity and Northwestern University said in a statement. People have always been afraid to intervene in pregnancy because you may do harm. What we are finding is by doing nothing, we are probably doing more harm.

New evidence indicates that a woman's excessive weight gain during pregnancy affects the intrauterine environment and turns on certain genes in the fetus that can result in childhood obesity and diabetes, Dr. Alan Peaceman, co-director of the obesity in pregnancy program.

It's not just that the kids gain weight because they acquire the eating habits of their parents, but their risk for obesity is programmed before they are born, Peaceman said.

Most women don't get nutritional counseling during pregnancy, and, if they do, it's relatively cursory, Peaceman said. We're not trying to get them to lose weight, we are trying to get them to gain appropriately. Some women who are overweight don't need to gain anything at all.

Excessive weight gain also compromises the health of the mother, hiking her risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the researchers said.