The Heavy Burden of Pregnancy

obese and pregnant

Dear Mr. Dad: Last week you talked about some pregnancy myths and you mentioned that expectant mothers should be more worried about putting on too little weight than too much. That makes sense, but isn’t there a limit to how much weight a woman should put on? Before she got pregnant, my wife worked out and we tried to eat a healthy diet. But over the past couple of months, she’s completely let herself go, putting on about 30 pounds—and we’re only halfway through the pregnancy. I’ve tried to gently tell her that she should watch her diet a bit more, but she insists that she’s “eating for two.” How can I get through to her?

A: A woman whose pre-pregnancy weight was in the “normal” range, needs to eat about 300 more calories per day than she did before. That translates into 25-35 pounds, which is the range recommended by most OBs. (Women who were underweight before pregnancy should put on a little more, those who were overweight should put on less.)

Since your wife will get weighed at every OB visit, her doctor will probably be chatting with her about her weight pretty soon. And given that it’s rarely safe for a man to talk to a woman about her weight, that’s a good thing. Still, at the pace she’s bulking up, she’s putting herself and, more importantly, her baby at risk. Unfortunately, she’ll need more encouragement to start cutting calories than her OB alone can provide, which puts you directly in the line of fire.
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A recent survey found that about 80 percent of US public high schools have contracts with either Coke of Pepsi. And given the amount of money that those companies pay to have their products on sale in schools, that’s no big surprise. Unfortunately, a lot of schools that sell soft drinks also sell all kinds of other junk food. As a result (and this is no big surprise either), kids who eat a lot of junk food at school are more likely to be overweight than kids who don’t have access to as much junk.

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Dads Have Physical Symptoms Too

My wife is pregnant and I’ve started putting on weight too! I’ve also been having nose bleeds and headaches. I’m excited about being a parent and helping care for our new infant, but I’m afraid there is something physical going on. What’s wrong with me?

In a word, there’s nothing wrong with you. Given that you’re not actually pregnant, most of what you’re going to go through while your wife is expecting will be psychological. But as you’ve found out, there are some occasional physical symptoms too. In fact, somewhere between 25 and 90 percent of dads-to-be in this country experience couvade syndrome (from the French, “to hatch”), or “sympathetic pregnancy.” The symptoms are pretty much the same as those your wife has probably been complaining about for a few months: mood swings, food cravings, weight gains. But some are a little stranger-especially for a guy-such as toothaches, headaches, itching, nosebleeds, and sometimes even cysts.
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