Between 30-50 per cent of Australian women in the early stages of pregnancy are overweight or obese, a recent study has revealed. Although the weight creep is far from exclusive to expecting mums, it has frightening consequences for pregnant women.

A report published in the Medical Journal of Australia has linked obesity during pregnancy with everything from hypertension and gestational diabetes to the rate of caesarean delivery and even stillbirth.

What can hopeful, expecting or new mums do to give themselves and their new bubs the best start?


Women who are obese before falling pregnant are more likely to deliver their babies before 28 weeks, according to findings from Stanford University released earlier this year.

Daniel Swanbury, exercise scientist and the man who leads Michelle Bridges’ 12 Week Body Transformation (12WBT) pregnancy and post-baby workout programs, says if you’re hoping to conceive you should follow a workout plan designed to help you maintain a healthy weight, or get your weight closer to a healthy body mass index.

“Include exercises that will help prepare you for birth and motherhood. This means exercises focused on bending and lifting such as squats, bent-over rows, dead lifts and bicep curls, ” Mr Swanbury says. “The pelvic floor goes through a lot of trauma during birth. Start working on your pelvic floor early so you’re ahead of the game.”

Founder of Mums with Bubs Fitness Jenine Dilts-Bayman recommends having realistic weight-gain expectations. “You need to put on weight in pregnancy, anywhere from seven to 15kg is considered healthy, depending on your pre-pregnancy weight and stature.”

Ms Dilts-Bayman, a mother of two young children, says the term “pregorexia” is something she hears all too often among mums desperate to combat their burgeoning bellies. “This is not only unhealthy for themselves but dangerous for their baby too.”


DO: Have five serves of vegetables, three serves of dairy and two serves of fruit each day. Mix up your protein with four serves of red meat per week and seafood three times a week.

DON’T: Have unrealistic expectations of avoiding weight gain.


Bodyism founder and celebrity trainer James Duigan says pregnant woman should not diet or think about restricting their food intake. “The focus should be on eating wholesome, delicious, nutritious foods that are full of goodness, ” Mr Duigan says.

The trainer, who has worked with celebrity mums including Elle Macpherson, Megan Gale and Christy Turlington, says you should continue to exercise in a similar way to what you did before getting pregnant. “If you rarely exercised before you got pregnant start slowly with walking and swimming and find a local yoga or Pilates class that specialises in pregnancy, ” he says. Mental wellness also is vital. “Let go of guilt, focus on what works.”


DO: Eat small amounts of healthy food often.

DON’T: Binge on sugary snacks or junk food.


Accredited dietitian and 12WBT post-baby program meal planner Jenn Madz says if you’re breastfeeding, nutritious food and drink choices are a must.

“We don’t recommend a meal plan any lower than 1700 calories a day as your energy and nutrient needs are elevated during this time, ” Ms Madz says. “Hormone changes, lack of sleep and exhaustion make it hard to get back into healthy habits post baby. Don’t set yourself up to fail when you’re at your most vulnerable.”

Mr Swanbury said it was important to only ease back into exercise once you have the OK from a medical professional. “We’ve all seen pictures of celebrity new mums on magazine covers who seem back to their pre-baby weight just weeks after giving birth. The “How She Did It!” cover line may look tempting but approach it with a measured and realistic plan.”

Don’t be afraid to seek help, says Mr Swanbury. “If it’s been months of doing all the right things, working out regularly and eating correctly and you still can’t shed any weight or are actually gaining more, talk to your doctor.”

Ms Dilts-Bayman recommends joining a group of like-minded women for postnatal fitness classes. “The baby weight will come off when done in a progressive and holistic way.”


DO: Bin all the junk food in your house and fill your pantry and fridge with fruit and vegetables, lean meats, seafood, whole grains, eggs, and healthy snacks such as yoghurt, nuts and seeds.

DON’T: Start an eating or fitness plan that is going to put you under pressure or add excess stress.


Record your food and drink. Research shows that women who monitor their eating enjoy greater weight loss than those who don’t.

© The West Australian

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