Health & Wellbeing

Fit in the womb

Pregnant woman chopping tomatoes

Anyone who’s ever been pregnant will know that eating for two is an old wife’s tale. When you’re eating a much larger than normal, fairly balanced diet, it isn’t great but when it’s a constant stream of junk food, it becomes a real problem.

The BBC has highlighted the extent of the problem this week following a major European obesity investigation which is calling for urgent action to prevent obesity in women of child-bearing age. It reports that every pregnant woman should have access to dieticians and psychologists to help protect the health of their future children.

The investigation questions whether the health of mothers-to-be can have long-term consequences on their off-spring. One study, involving 13,000 individuals, revealed that babies born to overweight mothers are more likely to suffer heart disease or strokes or develop type 2 diabetes in later life.

There is one key question here which has to be asked: Nature or nuture? Are the babies more likely to suffer poor health because their mothers over-ate bad food when they were carrying them in the womb or is it just as likely it’s because they have been raised on poor diets and have learned to adopt junk food as a regular choice of sustenance?

Either way, there is a cycle there to be broken and education is of paramount importance if the battle against obesity is to be won.

There are complications associated with being overweight or obese when pregnant including gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia and early labour. If you have a BMI of 30 or above, you are more likely to have an assisted birth or a caesarean section and you could have a larger baby or a much smaller baby. There is also some small chance that the baby might have certain defects which could affect a baby’s brain and spinal cord, heart or abdominal wall.

The best protection of a baby’s well-being is healthy eating and regular exercise. The period in the womb is such an incredibly important time in a baby’s development that any steps taken during this time on the mother’s side to improve her own health and well-being is most definitely going to have some impact on the baby.

It is never too soon to get fit, in the case of the baby, and never too late to get fit, when it comes to the mother. We just need to continue to drill the message home.