The danger of gestational diabetes, birth injuries and miscarriage is greater for pregnant women who are obese, according to a “Healthy Moms” study published in the journal Obesity.
The Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., also found that overweight mothers are more likely to require C-sections, and that their babies are prone to becoming obese children and adults.
The researchers concluded that obese women can lower the risk of complications by maintaining their regular weight, or gaining just a few pounds, during pregnancy. The Institute of Medicine recommends a weight gain of 25-35 pounds for most women, but only 11-20 for those who are overweight.
The study involved 114 women with body-mass indexes of 30 or higher. Half of the participants took part in a weight-management program entailing diet and exercise. The others merely got some nutritional advice from a dietician.
Those in the program gained an average of seven fewer pounds during their pregnancies. Two weeks after their deliveries, they weighed six pounds less than when the study began. The women who were not in the weight-management program were an average of three pounds heavier.
Keeping fit is especially challenging for women because their metabolisms are slower. That means they burn fat at a lower rate. A good deal of discipline is required to adopt a consistent, balanced diet; and engage in regular, daily exercise.
Nutritionists recommend meals that feature predominately vegetables and fruits. Protein and whole grains also are vital. These foods contain the vitamins, minerals, fiber and good fats necessary for fitness and health. To keep the pounds off, a woman must limit her consumption of carbohydrates, which the body stores as fat.
Green, leafy vegetables like spinach actually burn fat. The avocado contains a sugar that slows the release of insulin, too much of which promotes the storage of fat. Also helpful are hot chilies and ginger, which boost metabolism; and caffeine, a proven fat fighter. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon and other fish, also have been shown to aid in reducing fat.
Exercise is the other critical component of weight management. Cardio workouts, so called because they are intense enough to sustain an elevated heart rate for 20 minutes, are the most effective. However, any physical activity is beneficial.
Fitness experts stress that beginners should start slowly, with stretching exercises or daily walks. Other options include jogging, bicycling, swimming, and playing golf or tennis. Among the many types of cardio workouts that don’t require exercise equipment are aerobics, jumping jacks, stair climbing and core-power yoga.
Treadmills, stationary bicycles, elliptical trainers, weight machines, resistance bands and free weights may be purchased and used at home. They also are available at gyms, some of which offer fitness training, yoga and aerobics classes, and other services.
Consistency, persistence and patience are required to maintain a healthy weight. It takes time for an obese person to accomplish fitness goals. The process can be frustrating, as weight loss does not always happen in the parts of the body that a women wants to see shrink. Experts suggest eating home-cooked meals, buying only nutritious food at the grocery store, and avoiding sugar and saturated fats.