Most of us spend the better part of our lives trying not to gain too much weight, but if there’s ever a time to throw those attempts out the window, it’s during pregnancy. Your growing baby needs nutrients and energy in the form of calories in order to stay healthy and develop properly.
That said, there are some important guidelines to follow to ensure you’re gaining the right amount of weight for you and your baby. Your practitioner will likely give you all the details on everything you should be doing, and not doing, during pregnancy to keep your weight in check. But here’s an overview of some of the more important things to know about weight gain during pregnancy.
Eating for two doesn’t translate into eating twice the calories. Yes, that bacon-and-egg breakfast and chicken quesadilla lunch are feeding you and your growing baby. But there’s a tiny clause in the whole “eating for two” thing.
While you need a certain amount of calories to sustain your height and weight, your tiny, growing baby is much, much smaller. That means she only uses a mere 300 calories of your daily intake to grow and develop. So if you’re of average weight, you should really only add on about 300 calories a day to your diet starting in the second trimester, or about the equivalent of 1½ cups of Greek yogurt or one whole avocado.
It’s also worth mentioning that you likely won’t have to gain any weight at all during your first trimester (your baby will only grow to about pea-size), so there’s no reason to up your caloric intake any higher. Towards the end of pregnancy, around your third trimester, your practitioner might tell you to up your intake by around 500 extra calories to accommodate your baby’s more rapid growth as she prepares for birth.
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Pregnancy weight gain recommendations are generally based on your BMI. This standard body measurement, which translates to body mass index, is used to determine whether or not you are at a healthy weight for your height and applies to all adults and children over the age of 2. It’s also used in pregnancy to figure out the proper weight gain for a mom-to-be:
- If you’re at the average weight for your height, your BMI should be between 18.5 and 26, and your doctor will likely advise you to gain between 25 and 35 pounds during the course of your pregnancy.
- If you’re on the higher end of the BMI spectrum, between 26 and 29, your doctor will likely tell you to gain less — usually somewhere between 15 and 25 pounds.
- If your BMI is on the lower side, or less than 18.5, your target weight gain for pregnancy will be higher — most likely somewhere around 28 to 40 pounds.
If you’re carrying multiples, that, too, will affect your weight gain. For twin pregnancies, the Institute of Medicine recommends a gestational weight gain of 37 to 54 pounds for women with a BMI in the average range, 31 to 50 pounds for women with a BMI between 26 and 29, and 25 to 42 pounds for women with a BMI of 30 or greater.
Gaining weight gradually is better for you and your growing baby. In fact, the rate at which you gain weight during pregnancy is just as important as the amount of weight you gain in total throughout your nine months. Why? Your baby requires a steady amount of nutrients and calories (energy) while he’s renting space in your womb. Weekends where you go overboard and binge on all your pregnancy cravings, then cut back significantly in the days following, aren’t good for baby, who needs about the same amount of nourishment each day.
Pacing your weight gain throughout your pregnancy is good for your body, too. Just as when you’re not pregnant, putting on a significant amount of pounds suddenly is more likely to lead to stretch marks than if you allow your skin the proper time to adjust to your growing size. And gaining weight slowly will help you lose the weight faster postpartum.
Some of this is out of your control, however. You likely won’t gain very much in your first trimester, thanks to those bouts of morning sickness and the fact that your tiny baby-to-be isn’t taking up much room. In your second trimester, weight gain should pick up to an average rate of about 1 to 1½ pounds per week. But don’t worry too much about the numbers on the scale — leave that to your practitioner, who will let you know if something’s up (or down).
Gaining too much or too little during pregnancy can lead to problems. While you won’t always see the ideal number on the scale, gaining an exceedingly large amount of weight during pregnancy, or gaining far too little, is not a good thing.
Aside from the fact that excess weight gain makes for a more uncomfortable pregnancy, and can sometimes make it difficult for your practitioner to measure your developing baby, gaining too much weight during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of preterm labor, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, a larger-birth-weight baby and C-section complications. For these reasons, it’s important to do everything in your pregnant power to maintain a healthy weight gain during pregnancy.
Gaining too little weight during pregnancy is an issue, too. Research has suggested that mothers who gain less than 20 pounds during pregnancy are more likely to give birth prematurely or deliver small babies.
It’s not the end of the world if you gain more than you should early on. If you have that “oops” moment and step on the scale only to see a higher number than you expected, it’s going to be okay. Even gaining 10 pounds during your first trimester isn’t cause for concern. This happens to the best of us. Maybe you took the concept of “eating for two” a tad too seriously or are really digging those pregnancy cravings (Ben and Jerry have been there for you!). Maybe your morning sickness has you eating an entire box of Ritz crackers in a sitting.
Don’t freak out. You might not be able to instantly shave off those added pounds, but you can do your very best to keep your weight gain in check during the rest of your pregnancy. The key is to slow your weight gain down without pumping the brakes too hard. Talk to your practitioner and come up with a plan that makes sense for you. Even if you maintain a pound-worth of weight gain a week from here on out, you’ll be on track to gain a relatively healthy amount of weight in total.
Believe it or not, many women have trouble gaining weight during pregnancy. If you find that you’re having a hard time hitting the right number on the scale, don’t worry. Everyone gains weight at their own pace as a result of their metabolism, severity of morning sickness, appetite and other medical reasons.
Of course, it’s important that you do gain the right amount of weight. But remember that your tiny fetus only requires around 300-350 calories a day, so that’s really all you should be adding on.
There are things you can do to boost your weight gain. First, it’s wise to speak with your practitioner, who may recommend you see a nutritionist to get your weight gain on track. In the meantime, try your best to eat healthy pregnancy meals — particularly those that are high in the good type of dietary fat. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that the majority of fat you consume come from unsaturated fats, including both polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. They should account for about 25 percent of your daily calories. Also try to sneak in meals early and late in the day so you’re eating more often than normal.
And for those avid, exercise-loving moms-to-be, slow down a little. While exercise is important during pregnancy, over-exercising, especially when you’re underweight, is not good for you or baby.
Just because you’ve gained a lot of weight doesn’t mean you’ll have a big baby. While it might seem like an obvious prediction, your baby’s weight is the result of much more than how many pounds you tack on during pregnancy. Other factors include genetics (did other people in your family or your partner’s family have big babies?), the birth size of the parents (were you or your partner big babies?), your weight before pregnancy (heavier moms-to-be tend to have heavier babies), and the types of foods you’ve been noshing on during pregnancy (the healthier, the better!). Exercise is important too. Research has suggested that obese women who exercise during pregnancy are able to deliver normal-size babies.
If you’re looking for a more accurate prediction of how big your baby will be, your practitioner should be able to give you a reasonable estimate during your ultrasounds. And don’t worry if your baby is measuring on the larger side — many women are able to deliver bigger babies (even 9- or 10-pounders) vaginally and without complications.
You can get back to your pre-baby shape, but it won’t happen overnight. It can be unsettling, even for the most body-confident mom-to-be, to experience such drastic physical changes during pregnancy. But don’t worry! As long as you gain the right amount of weight over the course of your nine months, nourish yourself and baby-to-be with the right kinds of foods, and maintain a consistent and pregnancy-safe exercise routine (including lots of Kegels!), you should have no trouble getting back to your pre-pregnancy body in time.
It is important to note, however, that you may wind up with an extra few pounds you can’t shed, which is totally normal. You can consider those extra numbers on the scale a reminder of the amazing feat your body accomplished: bringing new life into the world!
For the best weight gain results possible, keep your eye on the scale, within reason. That’s not to say you should weigh yourself multiple times a day — or even daily. But you should step on the scale every so often to make sure you’re not way off target. To make sure you’re getting accurate readings, try weighing yourself at the same time of day, wearing the same amount of clothes, on the same scale.
If you find that you’re gaining too much weight too fast, contact your practitioner, even if it’s in between your appointments. He or she should be able to make recommendations that work for your specific situation and where you are in your pregnancy.Read the original article