London: Doctors usually advise women against dieting during pregnancy. But, a new review of research in the `British Medical Journal` now claims that it`s absolutely safe and doesn`t carry risks for the baby.
In the review, researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, looked at the findings from 44 previous studies which involved more than 7,000 women to come to their conclusion.
The researchers compared diet, exercise or a combination of the two. Dietary advice was based on limiting the calorie intake, having a balanced diet and eating foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and pulses.
The researchers then examined how much weight women gained during their pregnancies and if there`re complications. While each approach reduced a woman`s weight gain, diet had the greatest effect with an average reduction of four kg.
With exercise, the average reduction in weight gain was just 0.7 kg. A combination of diet and exercise led to an average reduction of one kg, the `BBC` reported.
Women following a calorie-controlled diet were significantly less likely to develop each of the complications considered, but the researchers say those findings need to be repeated in larger studies.
Dr Shakila Thangaratinam, who led the study, said: "We are seeing more and more women who gain excess weight when they are pregnant and we know these women and their babies are at increased risk of complications.
"Weight control is difficult but this study shows that by carefully advising women on weight management methods, especially diet, we can reduce weight gain during pregnancy. It also shows that following a controlled diet has potential to reduce the risk of a number of pregnancy complications."
She added: "Women may be concerned that dieting during pregnancy could have a negative impact on their babies. This research is reassuring because it showed that dieting is safe and that the baby`s weight isn`t affected."
But in a commentary in the journal, women`s health experts from St Thomas` Hospital in London said it would be "premature" for the current guidance, which only recommends women be weighed at their first pregnancy check-up, to change.
Dr Janine Stockdale, research fellow at the Royal College of Midwives, added: "We should be careful to note that the researchers are not advising women to lose weight during pregnancy; this is about managing excessive weight or weight gain."