I like to think that indulging my pregnancy cravings – the kinds of gastronomic guilty pleasures that (if I could see past my belly and thus care more) do my thighs no favours – is a reward for surviving nigh four months of morning sickness misery.
Although, given that this is my second time on the baby rodeo, I’ve learnt that a little restraint isn’t a bad thing. A jelly belly and saggy-almost-everything are indeed par for the postnatal course, but the extra layer of insulation only makes reclaiming some tattered remnant of body confidence that much more difficult.
Obviously, science backs this up. Recent research published in the health journal Appetite, highlights what we already know (but may choose to ignore with our head stuck inside a tub of Ben & Jerry’s): indulging in every food whim during pregnancy may not be too healthy.
Not only is the potential extreme weight gain unhelpful come the post-baby knuckle-down, but excess weight and poor diet are risk factors for a host of pregnancy complications from gestational diabetes to preeclampsia, and can put your baby’s health at risk as well.
Researchers at the University of Albany, USA found that over 50 percent of the American women they looked at gained an excessive amount of weight during pregnancy, while all women succumbed to at least one craving – unsurprisingly, comfort foods, specifically sugary stuff and typical takeout fare, were the most popular craved-for items.
Before you assume that mums-to-be might be using the ole cravings excuse to justify nine bacchanalian months of feasting frenzy, further studies prove that the drive to stuff one’s face – either with junk or the just plain crazy, is very likely a physiological imperative; scientists have found that an increase in the polypeptide Neuropeptide Y (NPY) in a pregnant woman’s brain could cause cravings, since NPY is “one of the most potent appetite stimulants known to man.”
While it’s clear that restricting ourselves while preggers is a sure recipe for hormonal meltdown, a bit of balance is evidently important, too. And it’s the guiding principle whether you’re carrying a human inside your uterus or not – eat a balanced diet most of the time.
Then give yourself a break once in a while.
(Because it’s your last chance to know freedom once that prenatal period is up, dear mama.)