Eating for two? Healthy weight gain during pregnancy explained
If you’re worried about gaining too much weight, knowing the recommendations helps
Many women feel that pregnancy is a chance for them to let go and indulge in their favorite food without worrying about their weight. Most women are under the delusion that pregnancy weight can be lost easily and quickly after giving birth.
A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that nearly half of all pregnant women in America gain more than the recommended weight in their pregnancies. Nationwide, 47.5% of women had excessive pregnancy weight gain, one in five gained too little weight, and just 32 percent gained an amount that fell within the recommendations.
But this is a concern not to be taken lightly and has health consequences for both mother and child. Women who gain too much weight during pregnancy are more prone to give birth to larger babies, who then have an increased risk for obesity and diabetes throughout childhood. Having a big baby can make labor more difficult which may lead to complication during your delivery. The more you gain weight, the longer it will take to lose it. And if you don’t lose it you have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
How much weight is right for you?
If you’re worried about gaining too much weight, knowing the recommendations helps. An expert panel of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the National Research Council have set guidelines on the amount of weight you should be gaining during your pregnancy. To know your target weight gain, you must first calculate your pre-pregnancy BMI which estimates your body fat based on your pre-pregnancy weight and height. You can calculate your BMI on the CDC Adult BMI Calculator. The higher your BMI is, the less weight you should gain, and the lower your BMI the more you should put on weight.
The IOM guidelines recommend weight gain is 11 to 15 kilos if your weight is normal (BMI is 18.5 to 24.9) at the start of pregnancy; 13 to 18 kilos if you are underweight (BMI less than 18.5); 7 to 11 kilos if you are overweight (BMI is 25 to 29.9); and 5 to 9 kilos if you are obese (BMI is 30 or greater) at the start of pregnancy.
For twins, the IOM recommend weight gain is higher at 17 to 25 kilos if your weight is normal (BMI is 18.5 to 24.9) at the start of pregnancy; 14 to 23 kilos if you are overweight (BMI is 25 to 29.9); and 11 to 19 kilos if you are obese (BMI is 30 or greater) at the start of pregnancy. If you fall under the underweight category and you are carrying twins, then you should work with your healthcare provider to determine what’s best in your case.
When it comes to pregnancy weight gain it’s not only about the amount you gain but how you gain it. During the first three months, weight gain should be minimal and does not usually exceed 2 kilograms. Some women even lose weight because they don't feel well enough to eat their usual diet. Once the second trimester started, gaining base on a steady basis is a must until delivery. This often means gaining 1.4 to 1.8 kilograms in a month until delivery if your pre-pregnancy weight was normal.
How to gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy?
Ask any pregnant women and they’ll tell you numbers are one thing; but putting it into practice is another thing altogether. Follow these tips to secure a healthy diet during pregnancy.
• When you’re feeling hungry, focus on healthy high protein options such as chicken breast, nuts, beans, and egg whites as a way to control appetite.
• Choose low fat milk and dairy products and get at least four serving per day to reach your calcium needs. Although not as well absorbed as dairy source, you can incorporate nondairy sources such as broccoli, almonds and kale to your diet.
• Reduce the amount of salt and salty products in your meals such as olives, pickles, processed cheese, and salty chips and crackers. Too much salt intake can make you retain water.
• Limit sugary drink such as soft drinks, juices with added sugar, iced teas. Instead focus on drinking your fluids from water.
• Use fats in moderation, even good fats. 1 teaspoon of olive oil contains the same amount of fat and calories as mayonnaise.
• Use healthy cooking ways when preparing food such as baking, broiling, boiling and grilling instead of frying.
• Limit sweet intake from cakes, chocolate, donuts, cookies, and candies to a maximum of 200 calories a day. It’s best if you forgo these altogether as they had very little nutritional benefit.
• Exercise is safe for women even during pregnancy. Speak to your doctor about the right exercise options for you.
• Visit your local dietitian and set weight gain goals and set a diet plan that will ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need while sticking to the target weight gain. Remember pregnancy is not eating for two.