An Irvine mum has lost nine stone in a year after gaining seven stone during her pregnancy which she fears caused her to develop pre-eclampsia.

Julie Charles put on a staggering amount of weight during her second pregnancy, taking her to 22st and a size 22 and says she feels “ashamed” that she may have put her baby and herself at risk.

Julie’s weight rocketed after she developed cravings for crisps and chocolate and dining on takeaways at mealtimes for convenience.

Julie, 33, said: “I wasn’t just eating for two, I was eating for a whole family.

“I was using my pregnancy as an excuse and, if I’m honest, I didn’t care how much I was putting on. I was telling myself, ‘hey, I’m pregnant, I can eat what I want’. It’s only now when I look back that I see I wasn’t taking the healthy approach for me or my baby.”

With just under three weeks to go till her due date, Julie got another shock when at a routine antenatal appointment it was discovered she was suffering from pre-eclampsia, a condition related to high-blood pressure in pregnancy that can be life-threatening for mother and baby.

One of the risk factors for pre-eclampsia is being overweight or obese.

Julie was rushed immediately to hospital and labour was induced early to avoid further complications.

Thankfully, Harlow arrived four days later on December 3, 2017, and despite Julia suffering some post-birth haemorrhaging, all was well.

Julie said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if the pre-eclampsia was brought on by my size and that’s a difficult thing to acknowledge. I feel ashamed to think I could have been putting my life and my baby’s life at risk. I knew something had to change.”

After her midwife told her how much weight she had piled while she was pregnant with daughter Harlow, Julie took action and joined Slimming World. The mum-of-two is now back to a trim size-12 - less than she was before she had her first child, son Odin.

She said: “Slimming World has totally changed my attitude towards food. I just can’t imagine eating like that now.”

Julie, who’s 5ft 8ins, had been around 13st and a size 12-14 most of her adult life, but she put on two stones after meeting her now husband, James, 31, in 2012 and settling into a comfortable couple lifestyle of dining out regularly and enjoying takeaways.

She then put on two stones while pregnant with son Odin, born in 2014, but lost it again, going back to around 15st.

Soon after giving birth to Harlow, she decided to seek the help of her local Slimming World group to get back to a healthier weight.

She said: “I’d been a member twice before and the plan worked for me – but my working pattern didn’t. I worked offshore with three weeks on the rigs and three at home. I’d be fine while at home, but when I was back at work, meals were all provided and there was temptation everywhere.

“After having Harlow, I gave up work on the rigs and knew I’d have a new routine at home with the kids that would make it easier to stay on the new eating plan. I felt absolutely determined.”

By the time Julie rejoined her Slimming World group in Irvine in January 2018, her weight was down to 19st 0.5lb. She set herself a mini initial target of getting back to 15st and achieved a brilliant 4st loss in just 28 weeks to get there.

It took another 20 weeks to lose the remaining two stones she needed to reach her target of 13st and she hit the milestone right before Christmas 2018.

Julie said: “I had been so focussed and it felt brilliant that all the hard work had paid off - I was beginning to feel like myself again.

“For months, I’d been hiding in the background in leggings and baggy tops and my confidence had hit rock bottom. At last I felt like I liked what I saw in the mirror again – I could shop for my age and for things that I liked rather than just buying cheap things in huge sizes because that’s all that would fit.

“I was determined to not be the person that everyone would look at as the fat mum at the school gate. Odin started school in August this year and I felt brilliant and so proud to take him to school instead of wanting to hide away. Losing weight has helped me be a better mum and I feel I’m now setting a good example of healthy living to my kids.”