When expecting, a woman’s body undergoes some of the most significant and wonderful changes she’ll ever experience. At 14 weeks myself, I’ve gained approximately 2kg (4.5Ib) and am learning to embrace my changing tummy. I currently weigh the most I’ve ever weighed in my life and I’m preparing myself for further healthy, gradual weight gain. It’s a mental hurdle as much as it is a physical one to embrace, positively accept and love my changing pregnancy body. Also to believe I will bounce back to my slender athletic frame shortly after bub arrives in the world. For me, this is a healthy outlook and I am excited to witness my body’s tremendous capabilities.
Weight gain during pregnancy is a very personal journey. It’s completely normal to think more about your body during this time. After all, it is undergoing incredible changes! However, weight gain during pregnancy may have implications for your health and for the health of your growing baby. Hence this topic becomes subject to public and scientific interest.
Recently weight gain during pregnancy returned to the headlines in Australia with health authorities expressing ‘pregnant women should not eat for two.’ Personally I wasn’t delighted to hear this expression across the radio. Women have a hard enough time enjoying food when pregnant, particularly during that first trimester when nausea is rife, ordinary smells can repulse, taste preferences change and suddenly a variety of foods, such as soft cheeses, prosciutto and sashimi are off the menu. Through all of this, if you are struggling to eat and finally your appetite kicks in, then why not enjoy a ‘meal for two’ (that is your hungry self and your tiny budding baby…sure don’t eat for two triathletes)? But pregnant women do not need something else to feel guilty about!
At the same time, it is important to understand the origins of the weight gain concerns. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy may increase the risk of developing gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia. Gestational diabetes is also associated with the development of type 2 diabetes later in life. As for the effects on bubs, excess maternal weight gain may enhance bubs growth (e.g. above 4kg at birth), complicating natural delivery. The risk of becoming overweight and developing diabetes in childhood or adulthood is also greater.
SO HOW MUCH WEIGHT GAIN IS RECOMMENDED DURING PREGNANCY?
The desirable amount of weight gained over the course of pregnancy is that which results in optimal outcomes for both mother and baby. As a guide the Institute of Medicine provides the following recommendations:
Table: Recommendations for total and average rate of weight gain during pregnancy, by pre-pregnancy BMI.
|Pre-pregnancy BMI (kg/m2)||Total weight gain range (kg)||Rates of weight gain 2nd and 3rd trimester (mean range in kg/week)*|
|*Calculations assume a 0.5–2 kg weight gain in the first trimester (based on Siega-Riz et al 1994; Abrams et al
1995; Carmichael et al 1997).
Source: IOM and NRC 2009.
|Underweight (<18.5)||12.5–18||0.51 (0.44–0.58)|
|Healthy weight (18.5–24.9)||11.5–16||0.42 (0.35–0.50)|
|Overweight (25.0–29.9)||7–11.5||0.28 (0.23–0.33)|
|Obese (≥30.0)||5–9||0.22 (0.17–0.27)|
The amount of recommended weight gain depends on the mother’s pre-pregnancy weight and height. Essentially, the lower your weight pre-pregnancy, the more you are recommended to gain during pregnancy, and the higher your weight pre-pregnancy, the less you should gain. Weight gain aside, the most important thing is to eat healthily and frequently throughout pregnancy, avoid dieting to lose weight and talk to your doctor, midwife or obstetrician if you have any concerns.