For a pregnant woman to have a healthy baby, it is advised that before pregnancy, they should stick to certain health habits to avoid gaining too much weight, which could be risky for both the mother and the child.
Being overweight during pregnancy, for instance, Iba Mayale, a gynecologist and obstetrician in Kigali says can cause complications for the mother and the baby, and that the more overweight one is, the more likely they are to have pregnancy complications.
When and how to know one is overweight
Mayale says being overweight is normally based on one’s pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), this means the BMI before one gets pregnant.
Normally, one is considered overweight when their BMI is 25.0 to 29.9 before pregnancy, this, he says means one has an excess body weight that comes from the muscles, bone, fat, and water.
Dr Emmanuel Semwaga, a gynecologist/obstetrician at Mediheal Diagnostic and Fertility Centre in Kigali says if one is overweight or obese before pregnancy, they are more likely than women at a healthy weight to have problems getting pregnant.
He explains that being obese can affect a certain kind of fertility treatment known as in vitro fertilization (IVF).
IVF is when an egg and sperm are combined in a lab to create an embryo (fertilized egg) which is then put into the uterus.
He says the higher one’s BMI, the less likely it is for them to get pregnant with IVF.
Another issue with being overweight Semwaga says, is during the ultrasound, explaining that having too much body fat can make it difficult for an obstetrician to see the baby by ultrasound.
Also, he says checking the baby’s heart rate during labor may be challenging if one is obese.
According to Semwaga, obesity during pregnancy can expose one to health complications like high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and blood clotting.
Preeclampsia, he says, is a condition that can happen after the 20th week of pregnancy or right after pregnancy and is when a pregnant woman has high blood pressure and signs that some of her organs, like her kidneys and liver, may not be working properly.
Mayale says gestational diabetes is also another health problem that comes along when one is obese during pregnancy.
“Having this condition during pregnancy puts one at higher risk of having diabetes after they have their baby,” he says.
In addition to this, he says one is also exposed to miscarriage, and this is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Also, stillbirth can happen where a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
When it comes to the baby, Semwaga says premature birth can happen, which occurs before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy which can cause serious health problems for the child.
The child, can also have birth defects including neural tube defects and heart defects.
Before pregnancy, he advises, get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy.
Private Kamanzi, a nutritionist says a health expert care can help one find ways to eat healthy and be physically active to help them lose weight before they get pregnant.
He says losing weight before pregnancy is good for both the mother and the baby.
What to consider
Since gaining too much during pregnancy can cause harm to both the mother and the child, Kamanzi advises that it’s essential to always get healthy weight before you get pregnant, and this can be achieved by consulting nutritionists and other health experts about the right weight for an individual.
He emphasises that one can discuss with their experts how much weight they need to gain during pregnancy.
He also notes that when pregnant, one should avoid trying to lose weight.
“Ideally, it’s important to watch your calorie intake and to exercise during pregnancy, but overdoing it to an extreme could potentially harm your baby,” he says.
Mayale says getting up early and regular prenatal care is vital, also, talking to your provider about how much weight to gain during pregnancy is vital.
Kamanzi says when pregnant, eating healthy food is important and this he says can be achieved by consulting a nutritionist to help you plan your meals.