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Rise of obesity amongst expectant mums

How to start making positive changes now.

Naturally, we all want what’s best for our unborn baby. Being fit, healthy and in a good mind-set is the ideal way to start your journey as a new parent. Making some simple changes to your life and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can go a long way to making sure you’re in the best possible shape to tackle the challenge.

Being overweight or obese can cause fairly significant complications for both mother and infant during pregnancy and labour, such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and premature birth. It can also put both mother and child at higher risk of developing health issues later in life, such as type 2 diabetes.

The latest Medibank Better Health Index shows that 59.61 per cent of expecting mothers are overweight or obese – 10 per cent more than in 2008.

The data also revealed there is a marked increase in the percentage of mothers suffering from antenatal anxiety and depression. In 2015, 23.9% of expectant mothers suffered from anxiety, compared to only 8.1% in 2010. In the same period, the rate of depression among expecting mothers increased by almost five per cent.

While there are numerous factors that contribute to mental health issues among expectant mothers, there is a clear link between obesity and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression1.

Health tips for expectant mothers and those looking to start a family

If you’re planning to get pregnant:

  • If you’ve been thinking about losing weight, now is the time as it’s not safe to diet when you’re pregnant. Women who are sitting at a healthy weight increase their chances of falling pregnant, and are more likely to have a healthy pregnancy and birth.
  • Take a look at the Government’s guidelines for recommended weight gain during pregnancy. For example, for women who fall into the ‘obese’ BMI category, it is recommended they only gain five to nine kilograms.
  • If you suffer from a chronic condition such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure or depression, check with your doctor to ensure it can be managed effectively during your pregnancy.
  • Check if you have the appropriate level of private health insurance and keep in mind that most health funds have a 12-month waiting period on obstetrics.

If you’re pregnant:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet and avoid foods like processed or raw meat, certain seafood, unpasteurised milk, and soft cheeses.
  • Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy. Great exercises for expectant mothers include walking, swimming, yoga, aquanatal classes and prenatal pilates.
  • Talk to your doctor about increasing your folic acid, calcium and iron intake, which can help reduce the risk of your baby suffering from issues with its spine and nervous system. Folic acid can be taken as a supplement, and is also found in foods such as leafy green vegetables, fruit, dried beans and peas.
  • Depression can be hard to identify when you’re pregnant or after you’ve had a baby, given it’s a time of major change and adjustment. Talk to your doctor so you can learn to read the signs, for example, if you’ve felt low in mood, alone, experienced a loss of interest in things you would normally enjoy, as well as decreased energy for prolonged periods, it’s time to get help.

If you’re looking to start a family, remember that with Growing Family Comprehensive insurance, you can choose your obstetrician, your private hospital, or both. Now is a good time to think about your health cover and make sure you have the right cover for your needs.

1 Luppino, Floriana S., et al. "Overweight, obesity, and depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies." Archives of general psychiatry 67.3 (2010): 220-229.
Each pregnancy is unique, Medibank recommends all members seek medical advice concerning their individual health, appropriate nutritional and fitness regime, prior to, during and post pregnancy.

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