Wondering what to do with all that Valentine’s Day chocolate? Eat it!

That’s right, pregnant Mama! Emerging research continues to illustrate all the ways chocolate is good for you. And, in this case, we’re talking about the pregnant you.

Emerging research indicates that regular consumption of chocolate (30 grams per day) may improve circulatory health for pregnant mothers and their babies, and it may also improve fetal development.

Ooh Baby! Chocolate!

Ooh Baby! Chocolate!

Flavonols Found in Dark Chocolate May Benefit Circulation for Mother & Baby

If there’s any study for pregnant women would have wanted to participate in, this was the one. Dr. Emmanuel Bujold, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at University Laval in Quebec City, Canada and the study’s author, evaluated the effects of daily consumption on 129 women, all between 11- and 14-weeks of pregnancy. The group was then monitored until their delivery dates.

The women were divided into two groups, each of which consumed 30 grams per day (that’s just a little more than an ounce) for 12-weeks. Half of the women ate chocolate with a high level of flavanols and the other half ate low-flavanol chocolate.

Flavonol is an anti-oxidant, noted to increase the circulation of special cells (angiogenic) that are involved in blood vessel repair. Flavonols are found naturally in unprocessed cocoa, so darker and more unprocessed chocolate has the highest levels, while milk and more processed chocolate tends to have lower levels.

One of the most interesting things about this study was that the quality of the chocolate – i.e. the amount of flavonols it contained – didn’t seem to affect the study’s findings.

The women were evaluated for:

  • Rates of pre-eclampsia
  • High blood pressure
  • Placental weight
  • Baby birth weight
  • Fetal and placental blood circulation rates
  • In-utero blood velocity

These factors remained equivalent between both test groups. However, significant differences were noticed in the groups’ blood circulation and velocity measures compared with those of the general population. This leads Dr. Bujold to think that there is a property, beyond the flavanols, that are of benefit to human health.

As a result, he concludes, “chocolate could have a positive impact on the placenta and fetal growth and development.” He adds that learning what, exactly, that ingredient is could, “… lead to improvement of women’s and children’s health, along with a significant reduction of treatment cost.” Researchers also feel that in extended studies, this improvement in circulation could eventually prevent the number of women who develop pre-eclampsia.

The study’s findings were scheduled to be presented at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s annual meeting.

Before Your Raid the Chocolate Store…

Before you take this evidence as carte blanche to consume chocolate to your heart and palate’s content, keep in mind that the women in this study only consumed a very small amount of chocolate, equal to a single square or so.

While it may have inherent health benefits, the researchers are quick to acknowledge that over-consumption of fat, sugar and calories can undermine them. Pregnant women are encouraged to maintain a healthy weight – gaining an average total of about 25- to 35-pounds, depending on their starting weight.

Over-consumption of processed carbohydrates and sugars also puts you at risk for gestational diabetes so it’s best to keep your pregnancy diet, healthy and well-rounded – along with an additional ounce of chocolate a day for good measure.

How’s that for a happy Valentine’s Day present?

Looking for an OB or midwife in the Bellevue and Issaquah areas? Contact Overlake OB/GYN. We look forward to becoming a part of your pregnancy and birth team. We promise to let you know about any studies that promote the consumption of delectable chocolate!


Image courtesy of hin255 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net