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profile picture of Elena Donovan Mauer
Elena Donovan Mauer
Contributing Writer

What You Eat Can Prevent Pregnancy Complications

PUBLISHED ON 05/21/2012

Pregnant women have an excuse to eat whatever and however much they want, right? Nope, according to a new study conducted at Queen Mary, University of London and published in BMJ. Researchers noted that gaining too much weight during pregnancy can put a woman and her baby at higher risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, miscarriage, birth defects, blood clots, preeclampsiaand (maternal and infant) death. They decided to see what was more effective in preventing those complications: diet, exerciseor a combination of the two.

To do that, they observed data on over 7,000 women, including the amount of weight they gained during pregnancy and whether or not they had any health complications. They found that exercise, diet — limiting calorie intake; balancing protein, carbohydrates and fat; and eating foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables — and a combo of diet and exercise kept the women's weight gain in check. But eating right was more effective than exercise in preventing certain complications: The women who watched their calorie intake were 33 percent less likely to develop preeclampsia, 60 percent less likely to have diabetes, 70 percent less likely to develop gestational high blood pressure and 32 percent less likely to deliver their babies preterm. The babies' birth weights were not affected by the limits in calories.

You do need extra calories during pregnancy, but only about 300 more than you did pre-pregnancy if you're in an average weight range, according to the American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists. This study adds just one more reason you should stick to that recommendation and not overdo it. Find out how much weight is the right amount to gain for your body type here.

How much weight did you gain during pregnancy? How do you think that affected your health while expecting?

PHOTO: Thinkstock