Weight gain in pregnancy
The ‘eating for two’ myth has long been quashed but exactly how much weight should you be gaining during your pregnancy?
- Why do I gain weight?
- How much weight will I gain?
- What if I gain too much weight?
- What if I gain too little weight?
- Exercising whilst pregnant
- Nutrition during pregnancy
During pregnancy, every woman will gain weight. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, your body is adapting to the new life inside it and weight gain is caused by the growth of your baby, placenta and amniotic fluid.
The body also begins to increase fat stores in preparation to make breast milk for after your baby is born. Your volume of blood and extra fluids during pregnancy also add to this increase in weight, as does the enlarging of your breasts and the thickening of your uterus muscle.
The amount of weight gained varies from person to person. Most women gain between 10 and 12.5kg (22-28lbs). This weight will mostly be put on after week 20.
Experts calculate that your calorie intake should remain roughly the same for the first six months and should only increase by 200 calories per day afterwards – the equivalent of a slice of toast and beans. So ‘eating for two’ is definitely out!
Gaining too much weight will affect your health and your blood pressure. You can increase your risk of gestational diabetes if you eat too much during pregnancy as your glucose levels will rise. Gestational diabetes can increase the risk of a large baby meaning your labour could be induced or a caesarean birth and the chances of having a stillborn baby are increased. Your baby may also face obesity or diabetes later in life.
A rise in blood pressure can be the first sign of pre-eclampsia. Although mild in most women, it can cause fits for the mother and can affect the growth of the baby.
Despite carrying some risks to both mum and baby, it is under no circumstance advised to diet during pregnancy. Dieting can harm your baby and won’t reduce your blood pressure meaning your risks of diabetes and pre-eclampsia will remain. Instead, eat healthily and try mild exercise.
If you don’t gain enough weight, you may have a premature baby, or a baby with a low birth weight (less than 2.5kg or 5.5lbs).
Looking at your eating habits and weight before conceiving can help to ensure your body is at a healthy weight. Speaking to a health advisor, you can find healthy ways to bulk up your body if you are already pregnant and underweight.
Some naturally slim women stay slim throughout pregnancy and still have healthy babies.
Our fitness expert Wendy MacLeod says there is no reason you can’t exercise gently up until the day you give birth (unless advised not to by health professionals), but your exercise regime can be altered to suit your needs. Ask your fitness instructor these simple questions to ensure your needs are being met.
Gentle exercise can keep your weight healthy throughout pregnancy and can even reduce labour by a third. If that’s not motivation we don’t know what is!
Whilst there are no official guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy, our nutritionist expert, Charlotte Stirling-Reed, says “Seek out advice from a medical professional such as a GP, dietitian or a fully qualified, registered nutritionist (www.associationfornutrition.co.uk).
Weight loss programmes can be effective for some people but The National Institute of Clinical Excellence recommends that these programmes should be tailored to individuals needs, encourage a balanced, healthy diet as well as physical activity and allow for a weight loss of no more than 1-2 lbs/week. Otherwise following general healthy eating advice will help you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and help increase your chances of conceiving. Importantly, it is not recommended to try and diet or lose weight DURING pregnancy, although eating a healthy, well balanced diet can help keep you and baby well and can also help you to return to your pre pregnancy weight sooner.”
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Read our week by week pregnancy guide for updates on baby’s development, pregnancy tips and articles on preparing for baby.
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