By Jessica Donaldson
A new study that closely follows the diets of women during pregnancy, and following the birth of their babies, shows their diets steadily worsen as pregnancy progresses and becomes even worse following childbirth.
For most women who have had children, this probably won’t come as a surprise – women know how hard it can be to find any time to look after themselves when they have a newborn baby to care for too, but it doesn’t fully explain why women’s food choices worsen as their pregnancy progresses.
The University of Adelaide study found that around 50 per cent of women were already overweight or obese when they became pregnant – this was defined as being above 25 on the Body Mass Index.
Study participants completed a food survey four times during their pregnancy and up to four months after the birth. Thirty per cent had of the participants had a poor diet to start with, but that number leapt to nearly 50 per cent after giving birth, with inadequate fruit, vegetable and dairy intake being highlighted. Energy intake from sugar and alcohol both increased after giving birth, and more than 40 per cent did not get the recommended amount of calcium and iron during pregnancy.
The study lead, Lisa Moran from the university’s medical research centre, the Robinson Institute, explains that women entered the trial after the first semester of pregnancy, once feelings of morning sickness, nausea, and aversion to particular types of food had usually already passed.
Dr Moran says that while for a small number of women morning sickness can extend right through pregnancy, this doesn’t explain the overall findings of the study. Dr Moran adds ”some women may still feel that pregnancy is the one time where they can relax some of their previous eating habits, and the idea of eating for two does seem to still resonate.”