The idea that it's fine – nay, encouraged – to "eat for two" is among the most appealing things about pregnancy for many women. Sure, there's the fatigue, nausea, mood swings and many more inconvenient and often unpleasant symptoms, but at least it's OK to eat pretty much whatever you fancy, right?
Well, apparently not. "Eating for two" is a myth and most women don't know how much food they should be eating while pregnant, according to a new survey. Guidelines from the health watchdog NICE recommend that women don't need any extra calories in the first six months of pregnancy and in the last three months they require just 200 calories more per day – which is not all that much.
Just a third of pregnant women knew the correct answer, according to the research by the National Charity Partnership (NCP), which includes Diabetes UK, the British Heart Foundation and Tesco, suggesting something urgently needs to be done to ensure the correct information reaches them, the BBC reported.
More than a third of the 2,100 UK women surveyed believed they should eat at least 300 extra calories each day, while nearly two thirds (61%) of the 140 pregnant women questioned thought they should be eating additional calories from as early as the first or second trimester.
Over a quarter of pregnant women also confessed to using "eating for two" as an excuse to consume unhealthy food all the time, which can increase the risk of complications in the pregnancy and birth, as well as the likelihood of the baby suffering health problems.
Alex Davis, head of prevention for the NCP, called the myth "very unhelpful", adding that it's important for women to eat healthily and not too much, "before, during and after pregnancy to increase the chances of conceiving naturally, reduce the risk of pregnancy and birth-related complications and stave off health problems like type 2 diabetes and heart and circulatory disease in the long-term."
Babies are also more likely to be born prematurely or require a Caesarean section and the mother is more likely to suffer a "haemorrhage after birth or develop a clot which can be life-threatening". In addition, babies born to overweight women are also more prone to being bigger, becoming obese and developing other significant health problems later in life as a result, Rymer added.
The NHS currently advises women against "eating for two", yet the message is clearly not getting through. "You will probably find that you are hungrier than usual, but you don't need to "eat for two" – even if you are expecting twins or triplets," it says.
Its advice included having a healthy breakfast every day to "help you to avoid snacking on foods that are high in fat and sugar," and "changing the amounts of different foods you eat so that your diet is varied, rather than cutting out all your favourites."