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The Effects of Over-Eating During Pregnancy

author image Jill Corleone, RDN, LD
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.
The Effects of Over-Eating During Pregnancy
A pregnant woman is eating. Photo Credit michaeljung/iStock/Getty Images

While pregnant, you are actually eating for two, but you do not need to eat twice as much as you normally do. In fact, during the first trimester you don't need any additional calories per day, while in the second trimester you need only 340 extra calories, and the third trimester, 450 extra calories. Overeating during pregnancy not only affects your health, but your baby's, as well. That said, you're hungry and you do need to eat for you and the baby. Exercise moderation when you can, but if you need to indulge in holiday meals -- you're only human. Know the risks so you can plan for a happy, healthy pregnancy.

You Gain Too Much

Eating too much when pregnant can lead to excess weight gain. How much weight you need to gain during pregnancy depends on your weight before you got pregnant. If your starting body mass index, or BMI, was 40 or more, you wouldn’t need to gain any weight. If your starting BMI was less than 20, you would need to gain 40 pounds. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can affect you physically, increasing back pain and leg pain. It also increases your risk of developing hemorrhoids and varicose veins.

You Could Develop Gestational Diabetes

Overeating and excess weight gain also increases your risk of developing gestational diabetes, which is when your body is not able to make or use insulin properly leading to elevated blood sugars. If left uncontrolled, it can affect the health of your baby. Your elevated blood sugars also increases your baby's insulin and blood sugar levels, and acts as a source of excess energy, which your baby stores as fat. Your baby's excess fat and elevated insulin levels increases his risk of obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes.

Baby Has a High Birth Weight

Not only does eating too many calories affect your weight, but it also affects your baby's weight. When you gain too much weight, it is more than likely that you will give birth to a larger baby During delivery, a large baby can damage your birth canal. There is also a risk that the baby may damage its shoulders during delivery. It also increases your risk of having to have a Cesarean section, which affects your recovery period following birth. Larger babies are also more likely to experience low blood sugar, respiratory distress and jaundice.

You Experience Heartburn and Discomfort

Maybe it's Thanksgiving or you're going to a special event, and you plan on eating more than normal. Heartburn is already an issue when you're pregnant, because the hormone progesterone relaxes the valve that separates the stomach from the esophagus, causing reflux of the stomach contents. Plus, if you're further along in your pregnancy, your growing uterus crowds out your digestive tract and puts more pressure on your intestines and stomach. Eating more than normal only exacerbates the heartburn and indigestion, and your discomfort.

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