Weight Gain in Pregnancy

You might be dreading the thought of putting on weight during pregnancy despite the fact that the weight you will gain will not be all fat, nor will it be a bad thing. The dramatic weight gain of pregnancy is just something that bothers many women. How you deal with the normal and expected weight gain will depend on your understanding of the physiology of a normal, healthy pregnancy. Knowing that pregnancy weight gain is not only normal, but also expected, can help you address issues that you must face going forward in your pregnancy.

How Much Weight and Where Does It Go?

Gone are the days when women were restricted to 10 or 15 pounds of weight gain during pregnancy. Instead your doctor or midwife will likely expect you to gain between 25 and 45 pounds during the course of your pregnancy. If you are expecting twins, you will be expected to gain between 45 and 65 pounds during your pregnancy. There might be reasons for you to gain more or less, but this should only be done with the supervision of your practitioner.

This positive approach to weight gain in pregnancy is not only beneficial for you, but your baby as well. Inadequate weight gain in pregnancy has been associated with preterm birth, poor placental function, and other negative outcomes. To give your baby the best start possible, you need to gain weight — wisely. Keeping in mind that your baby needs every bite of food you take in will help you as you adjust your dietary intake.

Essential

Calorie counting is important in pregnancy, although the number of actual calories you need is probably not as high as you would think. In the average pregnancy with one baby you will need to add about 300 calories a day to your diet, which is basically one extra snack. Examples might be a half of a peanut butter sandwich, or cheese and crackers.

Gaining weight during pregnancy is usually not a hard task. If you experience problems with nausea or vomiting in the beginning of your pregnancy, you might take longer to show a weight gain. In fact, you might even show up to a prenatal appointment and be surprised to see that the scale has moved down! This can be fairly normal. As long as you and baby are both growing, the actual numbers from week to week are not of concern.

Our society tends to think of pregnancy weight gain going directly to your belly. A typical pregnant woman has a large abdomen and a regular body. Therefore, you might not realize where the weight gain in pregnancy is distributed throughout your body. A typical weight distribution for a pregnant woman might look like this:

7½ to 8½ pounds

Baby

2 pounds

Amniotic fluid

2 pounds

Placenta

1½ to 2 pounds

Breast tissue

3 pounds

Blood volume

2 to 2½ pounds

Uterine tissues

4 pounds

Water

8 pounds

Fat stores

30–32 pounds

TOTAL

Weight Gain Distribution

Now that you know exercise in pregnancy can counterbalance the amount of unnecessary weight gain, along with proper nutrition habits it will also help you to avoid excessive or unnecessary accumulation of fatty deposits often associated with pregnancy. Weight gain is usually distributed unevenly during pregnancy. This is not a cause for worry. Here is an average way to look at weight gain distribution in pregnancy:

  • Between 2 and 5 pounds in the first 20 weeks for a singleton pregnancy

  • ½ to 1 pound per week until birth for a singleton pregnancy

If you were underweight before becoming pregnant, a larger weight gain may be appropriate for you and is generally recommended. For instance, if you were expected to normally gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy, you can probably expect to add 5 to 10 pounds to that total to make up for starting your pregnancy at a lower weight. Your doctor or midwife can help you determine a proper weight gain for your body. This additional weight will help ensure a healthy pregnancy.

If you are overweight, it is never expected that you will gain less than 20 pounds during pregnancy. Lowered weight gains in overweight women have been shown to produce smaller, sicklier babies who are often born premature. These outcomes are best avoided by adequate intake of calories. Even if you are obese, you must gain weight in pregnancy. Dieting in pregnancy is never appropriate.

Eating Disorders and Weight Gain

If you have previously suffered from an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia, you need to share this information with your doctor or midwife. Having a history of an eating disorder does put you in a higher risk category for problems with weight gain during pregnancy. Your practitioner can help you deal with issues concerning weight gain before they become an issue. Counseling might also be recommended. The good news is that even if you've previously suffered from an eating disorder, you can still have a healthy pregnancy.

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