Pregnancy is a time when most moms-to-be are given a pass to forget about tracking food and nutrient intake, and even to “eat for two.” But new research from King’s College in London might make some rethink that.
The UPBEAT (U.K. Pregnancies Better Eating and Activity Trial ) gave one group of obese pregnant women a diet and exercise intervention while a control group maintained their habits. With support from the British Heart Foundation and the Tommy’s charity, the trial aimed to show that lifestyle changes in obese pregnant women can benefit both them and their babies in the long term.
In a follow-up three years after the moms gave birth, the intervention group had healthier children than the control group. On average, their children’s resting heart rates were 5 beats per minute slower than the control group babies. A lower BPM typically indicates better cardiovascular health.
What’s more, the moms in the intervention group also tended to have healthier diets three years down the line.
“This research shows that a lifestyle intervention in pregnant women, which focused on improving diet and increasing physical activity, is associated with improved cardiovascular function in the child at three-years of age and a sustained improvement in the mothers diet, three years after the intervention finished,” lead author Kathryn Dalrymple said in a release. “These findings are very exciting as they add to the evidence that pregnancy is a window of opportunity to promote positive health and lifestyle changes which benefit the mother and her child.”
It’s important to note that while the researchers suggest a healthier diet and safe exercise during pregnancy, they’re not saying that anyone should go on a serious weight-loss focused diet while pregnant.
“Pregnancy can be higher risk for women who are obese, but trying to lose lots of weight while pregnant is not advised, so our research focuses on finding new ways to make pregnancy safer for these families,” said Tommy’s research and policy director, Lizzie D’Angelo. “It’s very reassuring to see that our researchers have been able to improve mothers’ diets and children’s heart health in the long term, helping to give these babies the best start in life.”