Will my weight and diet affect my pregnancy?
Women are considered to have an ideal body weight determined by their height and weight called the body mass index (BMI). A majority of women are most fertile if they are at a healthy body weight. Women who are underweight and overweight may have more difficulty getting pregnant, although this does not mean you cannot get pregnant if you are under- or overweight.
You should generally expect to gain weight in pregnancy. The recommended amount is determined from your initial BMI. Being obese can negatively affect your pregnancy and increase your risk of complications from gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, stillbirth and needing a cesarean delivery, while being underweight can increase your risk of growth restriction of the fetus and preterm birth.
The pregnancy diet: What to eat and what to avoid
It is important to have a well-rounded diet. You should try to decrease, if not eliminate any processed foods. Avoid any fast food. Try to have good sources of lean protein, at least two colors on your plate (ex: green and red), and a portion of a carbohydrate. Carbohydrates with a higher glycemic index such as whole-wheat flour, brown rice and oatmeal are preferred.
It is important to also have healthy fats. I often recommend the addition of a DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) supplement prior and during pregnancy. DHA is an essential fatty acid supplement and may help to improve the neurological development of the fetus. Many prenatal vitamins will include DHA within the vitamin or will be accompanied by a second pill. The recommended amount during pregnancy is 300mg daily. A common place to find DHA naturally is in fish such as salmon.
In pregnancy, we do request a restriction in the seafood portion of the diet to decrease the exposure to mercury, generally recommending two servings weekly, or up to 12 oz. weekly. It is recommended to avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish (I remind patients that big fish eat little fish so they will contain more mercury).
There are other foods to avoid prior to and during pregnancy. Try to eliminate any artificial sugars but also avoid adding additional sugars such as sodas. Avoid any unpasteurized foods. Unpasteurized foods may have an increase in certain harmful bacteria. Avoid processed meats such as hotdogs and smoked meats. If you choose to eat luncheon meats, heat them. Avoid undercooked or raw meats.
Some women may need time to optimize their health with their diet and with adding moderate exercise to help obtain or maintain a healthy body weight. Be patient. It is better to go into pregnancy at a healthier body weight.