‘Eating for two’ myth is harmful to mum and baby, warn experts

The “eating for two” myth surrounding pregnancy is putting unborn babies and their mums at risk, experts have warned.

I lost count of the number of people who urged me to have just one more biscuit, that extra helping from the pan and that larger piece of cake when I was pregnant. Had I listened to the feeders and chomped down all those extra calories, I would be a blimp right now. I gained 30lbs in my last pregnancy as it was, and I didn’t change my eating habits much at all!

This attitude linking all-out binge-fests with pregnancy seems to be engrained in our culture. I’ve seen several maternity tops with the slogan “Eating for two” emblazoned on the front. We see it as part of the “fun” of pregnancy. You can eat whatever you want, for nine whole months with zero consequences. But can you really?

The answer from the official guidelines is no, of course. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is! The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in the UK says you do not need any extra calories in the first six months of pregnancy.

It is only in the final trimester that you need 200 extra calories a day. This is the equivalent to two pieces of wholegrain toast with spread. Not an additional pizza with burger and deep-fried Mars bar on the side. Sorry to burst that bubble. I was extremely disappointed too!

I think there is a misunderstanding that pregnancy means we can eat what we like without gaining weight. The constant cravings don’t help matters. But being pregnant is not a magic free pass.

Professor Janice Rymer, vice-president of education at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “Eating too much during pregnancy and putting on too much weight can be detrimental to both mother and baby.

“Women who are overweight during pregnancy are at an increased risk of having a miscarriage and developing conditions such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia.”

A survey by the National Charity Partnership found more than a third of pregnant women thought they needed to eat 300 or more calories extra per day.

The survey of 2.100 women also found 85 per cent said they did not know how many extra calories to consume during pregnancy.

And, like me, more than 63 per cent of women felt under pressure from others to eat larger meals than normal.

Alex Davis, from the National Charity Partnership, said: “The ‘eating for two’ myth has been around for years but it’s very unhelpful.

“Eating healthily and consuming healthy portion sizes are important before, during and after pregnancy to increase the chances of conceiving naturally, reduce the risk of pregnancy and birth-related complications and stave off health problems like type 2 diabetes and heart and circulatory disease in the long-term.”

I don’t see anything wrong with having the odd treat and splurge during pregnancy. Just treat it like you would out of pregnancy and only do it once in a while. Go out for a pizza and have chips on the side. Have some ice cream. Eat an extra helping of pasta. But just don’t do it every day.

What do you think about the survey? Do you think there is enough information to help pregnant women with picking a healthy diet?



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