This site is intended for health professionals only

Dietary and lifestyle interventions for pregnant women

Dieting while pregnant can reduce the risk of “serious complications” such as pre-eclampsia, diabetes and premature birth.

Research shows following a healthy calorie-controlled diet while pregnant is “safe”, even for those who are overweight and obese.

Yet experts from St Thomas' Hospital said more evidence is needed to support a revision of guidelines on weight management in pregnancy.

More than half the women of reproductive age are overweight or obese in the UK and pregnancy is said to be an “ideal time” for health professionals to discuss weight management with women.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, analysed the effect of weight management interventions in 7,000 pregnant women.

A change in diet resulted in the largest average reduction in weight gain - almost 4kg - followed by 0.7kg for an exercise intervention.

Mothers-to-be on a combination of a diet and exercise style intervention lost an average 1kg.

Following a calorie-controlled diet was also found to reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, diabetes and premature birth, although it was stressed that the overall evidence rating was “low to very low” for these outcomes.

The team of researchers, led by Dr Shakila Thangaratinam from Queen Mary, University of London, claim the results showed such interventions are “safe” and “do not adversely affect the baby's weight”.

They recommend health professionals carry out more dietary and lifestyle interventions in pregnancy to improve outcomes for both mother and baby, but acknowledge there is a lack of data on risk factors such as age, ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

However experts Lucilla Poston and Lucy Chappell from St Thomas' Hospital in London said while the study is “timely and welcome”, it does not provide the evidence needed for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to reassess the guidelines for weight management in pregnancy.