It’s a given that if you are going to have a baby, you are going to have to deal with pregnancy weight gain. Most women do not mind this in the least as they know that what they are getting from the experience is worth a little extra weight. And plus, when you are pregnant, the weight gain will be the least of your worries as there will be several pregnancy symptoms keeping you busy throughout the nine months from nagging nausea to chronic constipation.
However, pregnancy weight gain is an important part of your pregnancy and should not be ignored. The amount of weight you put on (or don’t) can say a lot about the health of your baby. Let’s take a look at the significance of pregnancy weight gain and what is meant by normal pregnancy weight gain.
Why is there Pregnancy Weight Gain?
You ever wonder where all that pregnancy weight gain comes from if the baby will weigh only up to three and a half kilograms? What’s all the other weight about?
Well, there’s plenty more growing in your body than just the baby. Firstly, your uterus grows so much that it alone weighs almost 1 kg by the end of your pregnancy. Then there is the placenta and the amniotic fluid, together weighing at least 3 kg.
You will also put on extra weight on your breasts as the mammary glands prepare to feed the coming baby, about half a kilo here. Not only that, you’ll put on between 2.5 to 3 kg yourself to help your body sustain you through the pregnancy and to give you the energy to care for and breastfeed your baby.
There is also extra blood in your body to sustain your pregnancy and the baby. This can easily weigh up to 1.2 kg.
How Much Pregnancy Weight Gain Is Normal?
According to the calculations above, your pregnancy weight gain should be somewhere between 10 and 12 kg. Of course, your individual average pregnancy weight gain will vary depending on your pre-pregnancy weight.
The most accurate way of determining how much pregnancy weight gain is normal for you is by calculating your BMI or body mass index from before you were pregnant. Depending on your BMI, you may be told that your normal pregnancy weight gain for you can be anything from 7 kg to 18 kg. There are several BMI calculators online which will help you determine your pre-pregnancy BMI within seconds. Based on your BMI, the pregnancy weight gain that’s right for you may be as follows:
- Lower than 19.8 – average pregnancy weight gain 12 kg to 18 kg
- In the range of 19.8 and 26 – average pregnancy weight gain 11 kg to 16 kg
- Over 26 – average pregnancy weight gain 7 kg to 11 kg
As you can see, these numbers vary dramatically. So there is no one right answer.
Ill-effects of Extra Pregnancy Weight Gain
If you put on too much weight during pregnancy, you put yourself and your baby at risk. Following are some of the conditions and problems that tend to afflict women who gain more weight than necessary when they are pregnant.
- The extra fat on the body may not allow for natural childbirth and a Caesarean section or C-section may be necessary.
- Complications during labour and delivery. Even if you are able to undergo normal childbirth, it may be necessary for doctors to intervene in some way, for example, through vacuum extraction, as the extra weight on your body will cause obstructions in the birth canal.
- Increased risk of preeclampsia is another scary risk if you have extra pregnancy weight gain.
- If you have extra pregnancy weight gain, you are at very high risk for developing gestational diabetes. If you do suffer from this condition during pregnancy, you are at higher risk of developing diabetes after the baby is born.
- Children whose mothers had extra pregnancy weight gain are also at higher risk of developing diabetes later in their own lives.
- Research has proven that children whose mothers are overweight during pregnancy may develop childhood obesity.
- You may also develop high blood pressure during pregnancy if you gain too much weight. Not good for you or your baby.
- As a result of extra pregnancy weight gain, you may be prone to more intense bouts of backache, leg pain, and those other general aches and pains that characterize the later stages of pregnancy. You will also be more fatigued than is normal.
How To Avoid Extra Pregnancy Weight Gain
Avoiding pregnancy weight gain is a simple matter of understanding how much extra you need to eat during your pregnancy, and the kinds of food you should eat.
Many women believe that they can eat anything they want during pregnancy and it doesn’t matter because they’re supposed to be feed their baby all this extra food and the weight will come off after the baby is born. They feel that if they don’t stuff themselves at every meal, they’ll be depriving the baby. Think again. This misconception has led to many women learning the hard way that pregnancy weight gain must be controlled if you plan on returning to your pre-pregnancy weight after delivery.
In truth, you need to eat only a small percentage of your pre-pregnancy calorie intake when you are with child. Research suggests that you need to add only about 300 calories to your pregnancy diet to sufficiently nourish your body and your baby. Or you may need more depending on your pre-pregnancy BMI which was discussed earlier.
If you find that you are hungry despite eating the right amount of calories, it’s time to take a look at the kind of food you are eating. If you fill up on fast food, cakes, cookies, and fizzy drinks, you are bound to feel like you need to eat more. These foods measure sky-high on the calorie front, but have almost zero nutrition. Thus, they do not provide your body or baby with the right ingredients for development and growth. This is why your body may signal to your brain that more nutrition is needed, but you will misconstrue this as hunger and feel like you need to eat more.
If, on the other hand, your pregnancy diet includes healthy foods which are high in nutrition, you will find that your hunger pangs are almost non-existent and that you are steadily gaining a healthy amount of weight for your body type. The right foods include fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, cereals, dairy and meat in sensible proportions. Increase your intake of water. If you have never been fond of plain water, then give fruit and vegetable juices a try – the freshly squeezed variety, not out of a carton. You can still eat the pizza or indulge in your favorite ice cream, but this should be an occasional treat rather than the norm.
Do not forget gentle exercise during your pregnancy. Just because you need to rest more does not mean that you have to be bed-ridden (unless there are complications in your pregnancy and the doctor has explicitly asked you to stay put). You can take a 30-minute walk on a daily basis without a problem to you or your baby. Swimming, yoga and cycling are also safe exercise options. Consult with your doctor before undertaking an exercise plan to keep extra pregnancy weight gain at bay.
Keep in mind that after your baby is born, you are going to have no time to go to a gym or undertake a vigorous exercise program to lose all your pregnancy weight. And the pregnancy weigh gain will show oh, so clearly for months on end. So it really is in your best interests not to keep pregnancy weight gain to a safe minimum.