Research has demonstrated that even a few extra pounds above the recommended weight gain amount increases a woman's chances of retaining excess weight after pregnancy and becoming obese in the long-term.
Given that this added weight increases the risk of long-term obesity in both the mother and the infant, preventing the excessive weight gain in the first place is central.
A new study highlights an exercise and nutrition program that succeeded in preventing a significant number of women from gaining excessive weight during their pregnancies and also from retaining extra weight afterwards. Women were divided into three groups: a moderate-intensity exercise group who received nutritional counseling, a low-intensity exercise group who also received the same nutritional counseling, and a control group who received no intervention.
The nutrition program was equally simple, with suggestions for calorie intake that would support the recommended progressive weight gain (about 2000 kcal per day). The women were instructed to eat three meals and three to four snacks per day, with 40-55 percent of the calories coming from complex and low-glycemic index carbohydrates, 30 percent of the calories stemming from healthy fats, and 20-30 percent coming from protein.
The results, for the most part, were what you would expect. A lower percentage of women in the exercise groups gained excessive weight when compared to the controls, and they also retained less weight at two months postpartum.
If you have been exercising before conception and have no complications that make exercise unsafe during pregnancy, you can continue your program as comfort allows, taking extra care to avoid exercise in hot and humid conditions. And remember, a modest stroll seems to be about as effective for healthy weight gain as a brisk power-walk.