Achieving Healthy Weights During And After Pregnancy

Dr. Rhonda Bell
Pickles, peanut butter, and ice cream have long been associated with a pregnant woman's diet. The problem is expectant women may be consuming too many calories during their pregnancy, making it difficult to shed unwanted pounds after childbirth. 

Faculty of ALES researchers Rhonda Bell, Linda McCargar and Paula Robson are leading a set of studies to promote appropriate maternal and postpartum weight through healthy dietary intake. They have been awarded a Collaborative Research and Innovation Opportunity (CRIO) Program grant for up to $2.5 million for the next five years, from Alberta Innovates - Health Solutions (AIHS).

Fifty six percent of women gain more weight than is good for them during their pregnancies. Eighty percent of those who are already overweight going into their pregnancy will exceed the healthy weight gain recommendations outlined by Health Canada. 

"Up until 2009, there was a general message that pregnant women should make sure that they gained enough weight. However, now it looks as though women gain too much weight - for their health during pregnancy, their long term health, and even for the health of their infant," says Bell. 

There is also a misconception that excess weight gained during the pregnancy period will come off once the mother commences breast feeding. However, many women find the weight doesn't disappear as they had expected.

Bell, McCargar, Robson and their collaborators want to determine strategies that will help women achieve healthy weights during and after pregnancy. Their hope is that women will understand what a healthy diet is and what their healthy weight should be during and after pregnancy. 

They are looking to provide the information they discover to health care providers who work with pregnant women and directly to the women themselves. The research team is recruiting women within one year of giving birth for several of their studies, with follow up analysis throughout the first year.

"Linking people, ideas, healthcare providers, and communities through research activity is the way to deliver innovations that improve the health system and health of Albertans," says Dr. Cy Frank, AIHS CEO. "Our collaborative funding and support programs ensure we invest in the best and most relevant research for the benefit of the province."