By Melanie Chisnall
While it’s not obvious on the scales, eating healthy and increased exercise during pregnancy is associated with a range of improved outcomes at birth.
“Our findings highlight that weight gain in pregnancy is not an ideal measure of pregnancy health,” says study leader Professor Jodie Dodd, from the University of Adelaide.
Changes in diet and physical activity were directly associated with significant improvements in outcomes for babies, he went on to explain.
Women who took part in the study and received lifestyle advice, were successful in increasing their physical activity, with about 15 to 20 minutes of brisk walking on most days of the week.
Benefits to exercising during pregnancy
Study leaders have previously reported a significant reduction in the number of babies born over four kilograms to women who received the diet and lifestyle advice during pregnancy.
Other benefits for these babies, include a reduced chance of moderate to severe respiratory distress syndrome and reduced length of stay in hospital.
“Approximately 50% of women are overweight or obese during pregnancy. Until this study was conducted, there had been little evidence about the overall benefits of dietary and lifestyle interventions on this group of women,” says study co-author Dr Rosalie Grivell.
Lifestyle changes for a healthy pregnancy
“Our hope is that by following some simple, practical and achievable lifestyle advice, pregnant women can improve their health and the outcomes for their babies. We would, of course, recommend that these lifestyle changes be adopted as much as possible before women become pregnant,” Dr Grivell says.