Worldwide, half of all women who are of childbearing age are overweight or obese.
This puts both women and babies at risk of complications during pregnancy, and later in life.
Eating a healthy diet ensures your baby is getting all the necessary nutrients for growth and development.
Diet And Exercise During Pregnancy Can Cut C-Section Risk, Study Says
If you avoid junk and processed foods your body will be better equipped to cope with the demands of pregnancy.
Many women worry about the safety of exercising during pregnancy but, in fact, if you move your body there’s a host of benefits to be gained – for you and your baby.
Research has recently confirmed that both exercise and a good diet have a positive impact on how you give birth.
A new analysis of 36 studies suggests good diet and exercise can lower a pregnant woman’s risk of developing gestational diabetes or having a c-section.
What Did The Research Find?
The analysis looked at 36 randomised controlled trials, involving more than 12,500 women.
The trials evaluated any dietary or lifestyle interventions with the potential to influence maternal weight during pregnancy and the outcomes of pregnancy.
Not surprisingly, healthy eating and exercise reduced the likelihood of women gaining excess weight during pregnancy.
The research found a healthy diet, combined with physical activity, significantly reduced maternal weight gain during pregnancy by an average of 0.7 kg (1.5lbs).
A healthier lifestyle reduced the pregnant women’s risk of developing gestational diabetes (GD) by almost 25%. This benefit was consistently observed, regardless of maternal body mass index (BMI), age, ethnicity, or existing medical conditions.
The incidence of gestational diabetes is higher than ever; it’s important women are aware of this. Even when GD is controlled, care providers often recommend early induction, which can lead to further interventions such as c-section.
If you want to know more about diet and GD, check out Why Diet Is A Significant Cause Of Gestational Diabetes.
The other significant finding of the analysis was that a healthy lifestyle reduced the risk of c-section by about 10%. C-section rates in high income countries are often well above the level expected by the World Health Organisation.
The World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends c-section rates should be between 10 and 15%. In high-income countries like Australia, Britain and America, however, between 25 and 30% of women are having c-sections.
What Does This Mean For Women?
Today’s sedentary lifestyle and access to highly processed foods means women are more likely to be considered overweight, or even obese, by the time they become pregnant.
Being overweight or obese can affect fertility, by causing hormonal imbalances. Obesity has also been linked to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) which is another common cause of infertility.
If you make sure you are at a healthy weight, and you make good choices about exercises, it will increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy. A healthy, low risk pregnancy means you are less likely to experience complications that necessitate medical intervention.
Reducing the c-section rate means fewer women are exposed to the risks of infection, blood loss, future c-sections, and death.
Find out more in What Are The Risks Of C-section For The Mother?
Babies also benefit from being born vaginally, as c-section birth increases the risk of prematurity, respiratory problems, injuries and long term health problems.
Find out more in What Are The Risks Of C-Section For A Baby?
Staying healthy during pregnancy means your baby is getting the right nutrients for growth. A normal, physiological birth has many benefits for babies – right from the beginning.
Your good health during pregnancy is also beneficial for your baby’s health later in life. It reduces the risk of your child developing diabetes or becoming obese during childhood and adulthood.
And you’re setting up future generations for good health too.
Find out here how Eating Habits During Pregnancy Can Affect Three Generations – Study.
The findings of this research confirm what many health experts agree on: women who are at a healthy weight and do some form of exercise during pregnancy are more likely to have a normal birth.
What many experts can’t agree on is what makes a diet healthy? Each of the studies viewed diets differently, but they encouraged eating more fish and olive oil, more fibre, and cutting out sugary drinks.
By increasing the amount of healthy vegetables, protein and fats, and reducing sugar, processed foods and empty calories, most women find they reduce their weight – or at least it doesn’t increase.
In the studies, exercise was based on stationary cycling, swimming, dancing and toning exercises. Most exercises are safe to perform during pregnancy, as long as you exercise with caution and don’t push yourself too hard. The safest and most productive activities are swimming, walking, indoor stationary cycling and other lower impact exercises.
Improving your health before and during pregnancy can reduce the risk of complications which can lead to c-section. It provides benefits for both mothers and babies, and reduces the burden on health care systems around the world.