Pregnant women who believe in the “eating for two” myth could be harming their own health and that of their babies, experts have warned.
A British survey suggests that more than two thirds of mothers-to-be have no idea how many extra kilojoules they need during pregnancy.
More than 63 per cent of participants felt under pressure from others to eat larger meals than normal.
Alex Davis, from the National Charity Partnership which commissioned the poll, said: “The ‘eating for two’ myth has been around for years, but it’s very unhelpful.
“Eating healthily and consuming healthy portion sizes are important 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.”
Official guidelines from National Institute for health and Care Excellence say women do not need any extra kilojoules in the first six months of pregnancy.
During the last three months they only require about 200 extra calories – the equivalent of two pieces of wholegrain toast or a small handful of nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
Professor Janice Rymer, vice-president of education at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: “Eating too much during pregnancy and putting on too much weight can be detrimental to both mother and baby.
“Women who are overweight during pregnancy are at an increased risk of having a miscarriage and developing conditions such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia.
“They are also more likely to have a premature baby, require a Caesarean section, experience a haemorrhage after birth or develop a clot which can be life-threatening.
“In addition, overweight women have bigger babies who are themselves more likely to become obese and have significant health problems as a result.”