You might be worried of gaining weight when you found out that you are pregnant. Gaining weight during pregnancy is unavoidable. A new mother’s body will make necessary adaptation to support her baby. A healthy mother will gain weight around 10–16kg during her pregnancy.
Your weight gain depends on your BMI
On average, women with normal body mass index (BMI) before being pregnant should gain about 10-16kg after becoming pregnant. Underweight women should gain 12-18kg, while women with heavier weight should only gain about 7-11.5kg whereas obese women should only gain about 5-9kg.
The body weight increase differs for every category because women who are underweight need to gain more weight to provide enough nutrients for the baby and making them strong to sustain the pregnancy.
While women who are overweight and obese need to control the weight gain because they have higher chance to develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy as well as hypertension and if it persists, they will be hypertensive and diabetic for the rest of their lives.
Why am I gaining weight?
You might be wondering where do all the weight gained during pregnancy comes from. This increase in weight consists of the baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, breast tissue, more blood, uterus enlargement and extra fat stores which serves to reserve energy for the birth and breastfeeding.
Physiological changes to your blood will increase the volume of both fluid and blood component to approximately 1.5 to 2kg for each fluid and blood components. You will also gain about 3 to 4kg of fat which is essential for energy source and support to your body while carrying your growing baby.
Your uterus will expand and gain weight up to 1kg to support the baby for the next nine months. The placenta which is essential to deliver nutrients to your baby will cause 0.5 to 1kg weight gain while the increase in amniotic fluid up to 1kg.
The average baby’s weight during delivery is about 3 to 3.5kg. Baby with birth weight more than 4 kg is known as ‘macrosomia’ or large baby. The large size of the baby may cause complications during delivery. While underweight babies weighing less than 2.5 kg, which normally occurs in premature babies, need intensive monitoring after delivery. You will also experience changes with your breasts as part of the breastfeeding preparation that will cause you to gain about 1kg.
When you are having multiple pregnancies, it is crucial to gain the right amount of weight as your weight affects the babies’ weight. This is also because multiple babies are often born before their expected due date, a higher birth weight is important for their health. You may need between 3000 and 3500 calories per day when having multiple pregnancies.
What if I cannot control my weight gain?
The common condition of pregnant mothers gaining weight is also known as ‘baby fat’. However, uncontrolled excess weight gain can result in these mothers being obese and having other pregnancy and health complications. Almost 50 percent of pregnant mothers gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy.
Keeping this excess weight may cause increased risk of being overweight, heightened risk of diabetes mellitus and heart disease, greater risk of complications in later pregnancies, as well as higher health risks for women with gestational diabetes.
What can I do to manage my weight?
If you have gained more weight than recommended, you will be advised to watch your food intake. In most cases, you’ll want to wait until after delivery to lose the excess weight. Nevertheless, there are ways to slow your weight gain. The following list provides evidence-based tips to help you lose the extra pounds.
- Eat whole foods instead of fast food. Fast food is tasty and convenient but it is loaded with calories and does not contain the essential nutrient, minerals, and vitamins. Try to take it sparingly. Healthier options such as chicken breast sandwich with tomato and lettuce (without sauce or mayonnaise), side salad with low-fat dressing, plain bagels, or a plain baked potato are better.
- Avoid whole milk products. You would need at least four servings of milk products every day. However, using skimmed, 1%, or 2% milk or almond milk greatly reduce the amount of calories. Other than that, choose low-fat or fat-free cheese or yogurt for a healthier option.
- Limit sweet or sugary drinks. Sweetened drinks such as soft drinks, fruit punch, fruit drinks, iced tea, lemonade, or powdered drink mixes have lots of empty calories. Choose water, club soda, or mineral water to skip extra calories.
- Don’t add salt to foods when cooking. Salt causes you to retain water.
- Avoid snacking on cookies, candies, donuts, cakes, syrup, honey, and potato chips. Instead, try nuts, fruit, low-fat yogurt, as lower-calorie snack and dessert choices. You should snack moderately only when you feel hungry in between meals to avoid getting gastritis.
- Use fats in moderation by cooking food the healthy way. Frying foods in oil or butter will add calories and fat. Baking, broiling, grilling, and boiling are healthier preparation methods.
- Exercise. Moderate exercise can help burn excess calories. Walking or swimming is usually safe for pregnant women. Ask your healthcare provider what exercise would be right for you before getting started. Starting a new routine now helps you to make it a good habit during and after pregnancy, making it easier to get your body back after baby arrives.
Gaining the Right Amount of Weight During Pregnancy
If you are advised to gain weight during your pregnancy, try these tips:
- Eat five to six small meals every day.
- Keep snacking on nuts, raisins, cheese and crackers, dried fruit, and ice cream or yogurt.
- Spread peanut butter on toast, crackers, apples, bananas, or celery. One tablespoon of creamy peanut butter gives you about 100 calories.
- Add extras to your meal, such as butter or margarine, cream cheese, gravy, sour cream, and cheese.
- The key is to keep eating and eat anything healthy.