You will have to eat ‘For Two’ while you are pregnant

Fact - It goes without saying that pregnancy is an exciting and equally confusing time. With just about everyone you know introducing you to new supposed truths about pregnancy, it is common for you to get lost and not know what to believe. While most myths about pregnancy cannot be backed up with facts, a few of them may be worth your consideration. A pregnant woman only needs to add a portion of extra calories to support the baby and not have meals that are made for two people. The exact quantity of calories depends on the weight, height, level of activity of the women, as well as the trimester of pregnancy. On average, women need to consume about 300 additional calories during pregnancy. You do not need to eat any extra food in the first two trimesters of pregnancy. In the third trimester you may need to eat around 200 calories extra. It's likely you'll be encouraged to have extra food or indulge in extra snacks because ‘you’re eating for two now’. Much as this might be tempting, it's simply not true. Eating lots of extra food now that you're pregnant will not help your baby, and will leave you with extra weight that you may struggle to lose when your baby is born. This is especially true if the extra food you eat is high in empty calories, fat and sugar. Your baby takes everything they need from you for the first six months without you needing any extra calories at all. Once you get to the last trimester, you may need to eat a bit more. 200 extra calories a day is around half a sandwich. Although you do not need to eat more in pregnancy, you may need to eat more healthily if you don't already. Research has shown that what you eat now could affect your child's health in later years.

Information for women about how much they should eat during pregnancy is still not reaching many families, potentially putting the health of pregnant women and their unborn babies at risk.

A survey commissioned by the National Charity Partnership, a partnership between Diabetes UK, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and Tesco, has found that more than two-thirds of pregnant women (69 per cent) are unaware of how many extra calories they need to consume during pregnancy. More than six in ten (63 per cent) report feeling under pressure from others to eat larger meals than normal with 14 per cent of pregnant respondents saying that this pressure is constant.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) is working with the National Charity Partnership to bust the ‘eating for two’ myth and make it easier for people to understand how to make healthy choices during pregnancy to avoid unhealthy weight gain.

Official National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance advises that “energy needs do not change in the first 6 months of pregnancy” and says women only require around 200 extra calories per day in the last trimester of pregnancy. This is equivalent to two pieces of wholegrain toast with olive oil spread or a small handful of nuts, seeds and dried fruit. However, this information still isn’t reaching women and their families.

According to the survey, more than one in three pregnant women believe they need to eat 300 or more extra calories each day and around six in ten (61 per cent) think they need to start consuming these extra calories in the first or second trimester. Around one in four pregnant women (26 per cent) also admit to using the ‘eating for two’ excuse all the time to eat unhealthy snacks or meals.

Professor Janice Rymer, Vice President of Education for the RCOG, 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. They are also more likely to have a premature baby, require a Caesarean section, experience a haemorrhage after birth or develop a clot which can be life-threatening. In addition, overweight women have bigger babies who are themselves more likely to become obese and have significant health problems as a result.”

How much to eat in pregnancy depending on the level of activity.

Here is an estimated guide on how much calories you need based on the level of exercise you are doing:

If you are less active

That means: normal daily activities but no strenuous exercise on most days and less than an hour a day of walking, swimming, cycling or other moderate activity.

First two trimesters: 1,980 kcal 

Third trimester: 2,180 kcal

Moderately active

That means: Normal daily activities and an hour per day of moderately strenuous activity such as walking, swimming or cycling.

First two trimesters: 2,150 kcal 

Third trimester: 2,350 kcal

Very active

That means: Normal daily activities and 1-2 hours or more of moderately strenuous activity a day such as walking, swimming, cycling, or a job where the woman is active most of the day.

First two trimesters: 2,365kcal

Third trimester: 2,565kcal

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