New Study: Excess Weight gain during Pregnancy

A lack of self-control and poor food choices are most likely causing women to gain excess weight during pregnancy, university researchers say.

In what they claim will be a world-first study into why women put on extra weight during pregnancy, Deakin University researchers are asking pregnant women to take part in an online survey to measure their eating habits.

Psychology lecturer Emily Koethe said while women intended to eat well while pregnant, about half of all pregnant women were still putting on too much weight.
“Mothers want to eat well for their [own] and their baby’s health. But something is stopping them from being able to translate their motivation for healthy eating into action,” she said.

Ms Koethe said previous Deakin University studies showed that it was not “a lack of motivation to eat well” that led women to gain excessive weight.

“The reason may lie in a limit to the amount of self-control these women have to spend on controlling their food choices,” Dr Koethe said.

“We know that we only achieve about 47 per cent of all things we intend to do.”

She said the study could help identify women at risk of slipping into poor eating patterns during pregnancy.

Dietitian and spokeswoman for the Dieticians Association of Australia, Kate DiPrima, said pregnant women needed support, and that researchers needed to be careful to not be derogatory.

“Rather than just saying they lack self-control, we need to support women during pregnancy and help them make the best eating choices,” she said.

But Ms DiPrima, who has specialised in family and childhood nutrition for 23 years, said it was still important to put forward the hypothesis question, “even if it’s a bit controversial”.

“I’ve been through two pregnancies and you do get these different desires for food, and they’re very real,” she said.

“It’s difficult for women to regulate the cravings.”

She said younger women, women experiencing their first pregnancy and women who were already overweight when they fell pregnant were most at risk of gaining extra weight.

“If you’re overweight to start with, and you don't have a healthy, balanced diet from the beginning, there is a higher risk factor,” she said.

“Also, during the first pregnancy, you tend to put on more weight because it’s all new, and you don’t know how the body is feeling.”

Working mothers were also more prone to snacking on sugary, processed foods, particularly towards the end of the day when they were most tired.

A healthy weight gain during pregnancy is between 10 and 14 kilograms, Ms DiPrima said, with up to two kilograms gained during the first trimester, between four and six during the second, and another four to six kilograms in the last three months.

“Although some obstetricians say to keep it tight and others say deal with it later, women do have issues with getting our bodies back to normal. It can feel uncomfortable carrying the excess weight.”