Got a baby on board? If you're not careful, you could be carrying extra cargo long after you've delivered.
That old adage about "eating for two" has misled generations of women into overindulging during pregnancy. And, as people have been getting heavier in general, the temporary gains of pregnancy have more often become permanent for women.
It's not at all uncommon to meet women who never had a weight problem at all until they became pregnant, even if their first baby wasn't born until they were into their thirties. And if the weight sticks after a pregnancy, that story often holds true through several babies, with even more weight gain.
But overweight women have higher risks for pregnancy and delivery complications, including pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. And that's to say nothing of how the maternal body chemistry of an overweight mom--with the elevated blood glucose and likely insulin resistance--might affect the developing fetus.
Studies already have shown that for moms, there's a high correlation between being overweight before pregnancy and ending up with that long-term additional weight gain after a pregnancy.
But that's not really a good idea for the little person inside--the one who needs high-quality, ready nutrition for the hard work of growing and getting ready to be born.
Trying to avoid long-term weight problems for mom shouldn't be done at the expense of the baby.
I see many women who come in for guidance with weight loss within just weeks of the baby's birth, and I often marvel at their determination. Having had three babies, I remember being wiped out just by caring for the new baby and dealing with the sleep deprivation, let alone trying to take on a new diet and exercise regimen.
But many more mothers fall into unhealthy patterns of inactivity once there's a baby to be looked after. And having grown accustomed to eating a little more, some women don't cut back to an appropriate level after birth. Getting back into healthy habits as soon as possible is key to avoiding that lifelong burden started by a pregnancy gain.
Of course, weight is like most health problems in that prevention is easier than a cure. If you're overweight and contemplating getting pregnant, think about bringing your weight down beforehand. Because of the serious risks to the baby that are associated with maternal obesity or diabetes, it's best to be at a normal weight before you get pregnant.
But at any weight, it's critical during pregnancy to eat particularly well, but that doesn't mean to eat a whole lot more. Get plenty of fresh vegetables and good, low-fat dairy. The extra 300 calories a day a pregnant mom should be eating could easily be accounted for with a morning snack of yogurt and fruit, or by adding three glasses of milk to the daily intake.
Soon after you've started to normalize your schedule, get right to work getting rid of that baby weight. Chances are awfully high that if you still have it after a year, you'll still have it even 15 years later.
Caroline J. Cederquist, M.D., is a board-certified family and bariatric physician. Find more information about Dr. Cederquist and her weight management plan by visiting www.drcederquist.com .