Help, I can’t stop eating!

It’s natural to worry about weight gain during pregnancy, but it’s good to pile on the pounds sensibly.

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Pregnancy’s weird. One minute you feel so queasy you rush to the loo if someone even mentions the words ‘fish and chips’; the next you’re stuffing yourself with pounds of raw peas, bags of liquorice, and Marmite and jam sandwiches as if your life depends on it.

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Eating too little when pregnant can leave you low on iron, folic acid and other vitamins and minerals vital for a healthy baby. On the other hand, piling on too many pounds can lead to backache, varicose veins and high blood pressure.

Your baby has to get all his nutrients from you, but that doesn’t mean you need to eat twice as much.

For the first six months of your pregnancy you don’t need any extra calories; for the last three months you need only an extra 200 a day. That’s two slices of wholemeal toast and butter, or a jacket potato with an ounce of cheese, or a slice of cheese on toast.

5 foods you SHOULD BE EATING

  • Fruit and vegetables. Five servings or more a day
  • Bread, grains and cereals. Five servings a day
  • Dairy produce. Two to three servings a day
  • Meat, fish, eggs and non-animal proteins such as nuts and pulses. Two to three servings a day
  • Fats and sugars. Eat only occasionally

and 4 foods to AVOID

Liver and liver products like meat pâté. These can contain high levels of vitamin A, thought to cause birth defects

Soft cheeses such as brie and blue-veined cheeses like Stilton, which may contain listeria, a bug that can harm your unborn baby

Anything containing raw eggs like homemade mayonnaise or mousses, because of the risk of salmonella, which can make you very ill

Undercooked meat or chilled ready meals

For advice about food safety in pregnancy call The Wellbeing Eating for Pregnancy line: 0845 130 3646

Losing IT AFTERWARDS

Straight after giving birth, you’ll lose about a stone, which is mostly baby, placenta and amniotic fluid. As the weeks pass more weight will disappear but you mustn’t diet. Eating healthily will help you feel better faster. If you’re breastfeeding, you need about 500 extra calories a day. One big plus with breastfeeding is the baby’s sucking helps your uterus contract, so your tummy shrinks back quickly. But sometimes you hang onto an extra half stone until you stop.

Weeks 0-13

In the first few weeks you may not feel like eating proper meals. This may mean you don’t gain any weight, or even lose a couple of pounds. Your midwife will give you some general advice about healthy eating and exercise. If not, ask.

Stave off hunger by eating small meals every few hours. This will also help beat early pregnancy niggles like morning sickness or dizziness.

Don’t skip meals. This can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar, making hormonal mood swings worse.

  • Weight gain up to week 13 should be ideally no more than about 5lb (2.3kg). Mid to late pregnancy is when you really start to notice an increase, as your body lays down fat stores for breastfeeding, so it’s best to avoid putting on too much, too soon.

Weeks 14-24

At this stage your appetite may be the same as before you were pregnant or slightly increased. You may also find you’re waking up in the middle of the night feeling hungry.

Eat something light like yoghurt or a bowl of cereal before bed.

Don’t worry about your changing appetite as long as you’re eating sensibly and gaining weight at the appropriate rate.

Don’t leave it too late before eating your main meal as this can make indigestion worse.

  • Weight gain at this stage tends to be more marked. From about week 20 you’ll put on around 1lb for each week of your pregnancy, but don’t expect it necessarily to be steady: some women put on 3-4lb in a week after a growth spurt, then nothing for two or three weeks.

Weeks 25-40

Towards the end of your pregnancy your appetite will probably grow, but if you have heartburn or feel full after eating you may find it helpful to have small frequent meals. Eating too much processed or fatty food may increase your chances of heartburn, indigestion, piles, back pain and joint pain while you’re still pregnant.

Food you eat now is crucial for labour. Think of yourself as a runner stocking up on energy food before a race: protein like meat, chicken and fish, and carbohydrates such as pasta, rice and cereal will help build your reserves of stamina and energy.

Don’t miss meals, even if tired.

Your tum may look huge, but lie in the bath looking down on it and think what miracles are going on in there.

  • Aim for about 8-11lb weight gain during this stage.

When it’s too blooming much

Try to follow the One Two Three rule based on what you weighed before pregnancy:

  • If you were overweight pre-pregnancy, ideal weight gain should be about one to one-and-a-half stone (15-25lb) in all.
  • If you were normal weight for your height, you should gain one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half stone (25-35lb).
  • If underweight, ideal weight gain will be about two-and-a-half to three stone (28-40lb).

Health alert!

About one in 10 mums-to-be develops pre-eclampsia, a potentially dangerous condition. Sudden weight gain, perhaps with puffy hands or feet or a headache, should be reported to your midwife or GP immediately.

Stop a snack attack

Small, healthy meals stave off a munchy attack. Go for snacks combining carbohydrates and protein, like a cheese or chicken sandwich made with wholemeal bread, an egg or baked beans on wholemeal toast, plus a low-fat yoghurt or glass of milk.

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  • Eat as much fresh fruit and veg as you like.
  • Keep a bag of nuts in your bag to munch on while out.

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