SENSIBLE WEIGHT GAIN DURING PREGNANCY
Many pregnant women ask themselves”what is sensible weight gain during pregnancy?” Most women worry that they will gain too much, some women are concerned that they may gain too little, and others aren’t concerned, either way. But the two most important things to keep in mind are that 1) you are going to put on weight during pregnancy! You are meant to because your body is growing and changing to give your baby the best start in life and 2) every pregnancy and situation is different.
The weight before conception is crucial in that the higher the pre-pregnancy weight, the bigger the potential weight gain. Age is another factor, as an older mother will tend to gain more weight.
Parity is also a factor: for each subsequent pregnancy, the weight gained tends to go down.
HOW MUCH TOTAL WEIGHT SHOULD I GAIN?
The amount of weight you should gain depends on your weight before pregnancy. You should gain:
• 25-37 pounds if you were a healthy weight before pregnancy.
• 28-40 pounds if you were underweight before pregnancy.
• 15-25 pounds if you were overweight before pregnancy.
WHERE DOES ALL THE EXTRA WEIGHT GO?
Here is an approximate breakdown of your weight gain:
• Baby: 7-8 pounds
• Placenta: 1-2 pounds
• Amniotic fluid: 2 pounds
• Uterus: 2 pounds
• Maternal breast tissue: 2 pounds
• Maternal blood : 4 pounds
• Fluids in maternal tissue: 4 pounds
• Maternal fat and nutrient stores: 7 pounds
The baby and amniotic fluid are only a small part of the weight gain, the rest is an increase in the mother’s fat stores to provide an energy reserve for later breastfeeding.
A BALANCED DIET DURING PREGNANCY
Generally, pregnancy can progress well with the need for only very small increases in protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals. The digestive system in pregnant women changes and becomes more efficient at absorbing certain nutrients. In fact, with only a few exceptions, most of the additional nutrient needs of pregnancy can be met by eating a well-balanced and varied diet. So the old adage ‘eating for two’ doesn’t mean you should eat twice as much food. Therefore, with a few exceptions, you can continue to eat a normal, healthy diet before and during pregnancy. This includes regular meals and snacks, and a sensible healthy eating regime containing:
• Five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, and foods from all the major food groups
• About 10 per cent of your calories should come from proteins, such as meat, fish, eggs and pulses.
• About 35 per cent of your calories should come from dairy products, such as butter and cheese, and from oils and nuts (fats), slightly less if you are overweight; low fat spreads and yoghurts are fine.
• About 55 per cent of your calories (the largest part) should come from bread, pasta, potatoes, rice and cereals (carbohydrates); wholewheat products are better than refined white, as they will keep your blood sugar steady and you will feel fuller for longer.
• Eat breakfast every day. Peanut butter or a slice of cheese on toast can give you an extra protein boost.
• Snack between meals; yogurt and dried fruits can provide protein, calcium, and minerals
• at least eight medium glasses of fluid each day
• very little or no alcohol
• There’s no harm in having the occasional chocolate treat, but remember that the extra weight you put on during pregnancy will show all too clearly after your baby is born; losing weight in the early months of motherhood isn’t going to be easy.
CAN GAINING TOO MUCH WEIGHT BE HARMFUL?
The following are potential problems with gaining too much weight:
• Gestational diabetes
• Leg pain
• Increased fatigue
• Varicose veins
• Increased risk of caesarean delivery
• High blood pressure
BUT WHAT IF YOU’VE ALREADY GAINED MORE THAN YOU SHOULD?
If you feel you’ve already gained more than you should as a result of too little activity and/or overindulging, it’s never too late to turn over a new leaf! If you haven’t been exercising, start walking everyday (with your doctor’s OK of course). And if you’ve been eating too much take-out food, do your best to prepare and eat home-cooked meals with lots of vegetables!
If you HAVE been taking good care of yourself (eating right and exercising), but still feel that you’ve gained more than you need to – RELAX and keep up the good work! The extra weight gain might just be what your body needs to support your pregnancy (remember – those weight gain charts are JUST guidelines!).
Whatever you do, though, DO NOT DIET! Pregnancy is not the time to restrict calories.