Blog by Dr Anita Star & Leah Vandervliet

Authors of Growing Baby Bean: A Complete Guide to Pregnancy Nutrition

Have you noticed an increased focus on weight management in pregnancy? The latest Australian Pregnancy Guidelines suggest health practitioners weigh women at every obstetric care visit.  Too often this is done without the detailed information, practical strategies, counselling and support that women need to actually do something positive with this information! When done poorly this increased focus on weight management in pregnancy can have harmful flow-on effects. Women can end up feeling shamed about their bodies, during a time in their lives when they should be most proud of their bodies. Let us know, has this happened to you?

When negative weigh-ins occur women are at risk of falling back on familiar dieting strategies used at other times in their life. This may include counting calories, restricting intake of particular food groups, or skipping meals. We are overloaded with nutrition information on the internet and social media, but diets and nutrition information not designed for pregnancy can often be harmful and not nourish the growing baby. For example recent research out of the USA showed pregnant women following low carbohydrate diets were more likely to have a baby with neural tube defects.

If you are shamed about your body during a pregnancy weigh-in, this may be your first experience of being judged over your size, but is more often cementing body shame and poor body image that has occurred over a lifetime of cultural messages about being thin. You know the ones, thin= beauty, success, femininity; even though we know this is not true, these messages are still everywhere around us. Anytime, but particularly in pregnancy, body shame can have a really negative impact on mental wellbeing.

The link between poor body image, dieting and depression is well established, including in my own (Anita’s) PhD research. Pregnancy health practitioners need to tread so much more carefully! The last thing we want to do is increase body concerns and inadvertently contribute to perinatal depression. Perinatal depression is a terrible illness, which is too common already, and can have deadly consequences. If you are feeling depressed in pregnancy or afterward please reach out to your health care team, and get information online from PANDA or Beyondblue.

On the other hand, if done in a supportive way, monitoring, aiming to prevent or address excessive weight gain in pregnancy, with advice and support that nourishes and nurtures the mum and baby can be helpful.  It can help decrease rates of gestational diabetes and birth complications, and help prevent longer term heavier weights in mum.

The research on pregnancy nutrition is ballooning and it’s certainly not all about weight, nor is it just about what food you need to avoid!. It is so important to have the right information. Good nutrition in pregnancy can play a role in helping to reduce birth complications like preterm birth, medically very small, and conversely medically very large babies. It is also linked and can help reduce the risk of a number of both short and long- term health issues in the child, such as allergies, asthma, cognitive development issues, obesity and diabetes mellitus.

In our book ‘Growing Baby Bean a Complete Guide to Pregnancy Nutrition’, we encourage women to first and foremost love and respect their bodies. It provides accurate research-based information about the optimal ways mothers can nourish their babies during pregnancy, and includes plenty of practical information with over 60 recipes.

‘Growing Baby Bean A Complete Guide to Pregnancy Nutrition’. Hardcover, full colour, 272 pages,

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