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How to Gain the Appropriate Weight in Pregnancy.
You don’t need to eat for two when you’re pregnant, but you do need to make sure your baby is getting the proper amount of nutrition while in utero.
A healthy and balanced diet will ensure that the fetus is growing at a healthy rate.
At the same time, eating too much during pregnancy can worsen health outcomes for you and your baby, so it is important to stay within the recommended limits.
The amount of weight you are supposed to gain during pregnancy is dependent on how much you weigh before pregnancy.
Determining an Appropriate Weight Target
Know the appropriate weight gain during pregnancy for your size and height.
You should gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy if you were of a healthy weight before pregnancy, with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9.
You may gain more if you were underweight before pregnancy, with a BMI of less than 18.5.
It’s not unusual for women in this category to add 28 to 40 pounds during pregnancy.
A woman who is overweight before becoming pregnant with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 should gain 15 to 25 pounds.
A woman considered obese with a BMI over 30 should gain 11 to 20 pounds.
Your doctor may recommend you gain more or less weight during pregnancy depending on your particular health situation.
Note that, on average, most women have trouble gaining too much weight during pregnancy as opposed to too little.
However, both problems do exist, and this article will provide suggestions both for gaining more weight as well as gaining less weight, depending upon which scenario applies to you.
Understand why it is important to pay attention to weight gain during pregnancy.
It is not only for the baby’s best interest, but for yours as well in navigating the postpartum (post-pregnancy) period.
While it is important for your baby to have adequate nutrition to grow and thrive, too much weight can also be harmful for the baby.
This can lead to large infants and complications that can arise later in the baby’s life due to elevated birth weight, such as a higher likelihood of childhood obesity and a greater chance of developing diabetes.
Similarly, while the mother needs to ensure adequate calories to fuel the growth of the baby, gaining too much excess weight in pregnancy can make it challenging to lose the weight after the pregnancy is over.
It can also increase the mother’s chances of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity among other long-term health consequences.
Note that you should not lose weight in pregnancy.
If you notice weight loss, see your physician immediately for assessment, as this may indicate complications for the pregnancy or trouble in your baby’s ability to grow.
However, it can be common to lose a little weight in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Recognize how much weight you should gain during each trimester of your pregnancy.
You should gain a total of two to four pounds in the first trimester.
After that, you should gain about one pound per week.
Your caloric requirements increase as each trimester goes along.
In the second trimester it is recommended to eat approximately 340 calories above your normal amount (pre-pregnancy), and in the third trimester 452 calories above your normal amount (pre-pregnancy).
Know, however, that these values are averages and there will be slight differences from woman to woman, depending on her pre-pregnancy weight as well as her general health and metabolism.
Realize that weight gain during pregnancy is a necessary part of the experience and not all of the weight gain is being stored as fat.
About seven to eight pounds of your pregnancy weight gain will be the baby.
In addition, one to two pounds will make up the placenta, one to two pounds will be amniotic fluid, one or so pounds will be breast tissue, two or so pounds will be due to a larger uterus, two to three pounds in extra fluid stored in your body, and two to three extra pounds will be from a larger blood supply.
By the end of pregnancy, the average woman is 27 or 28 pounds heavier than she was prior to pregnancy.
Understand the recommended dietary breakdown for women during pregnancy.
On average, women need to consume 300 more calories per day during pregnancy than they did prior to becoming pregnant.
It is important to have the proper proportions of various nutrients in order to optimize your baby’s growth.
The current medical guidelines suggest a diet comprised of 20% protein, 30% fat, and 50% carbohydrates.
To break it down based on the food pyramid, an example of a healthy diet during pregnancy would look as follows: 6-11 servings of grains, 3-5 servings of vegetables, 2-4 servings of fruit, 3-4 servings of dairy, and 2-3 servings of meats, beans, or nuts.
Note that whole grains (and non-refined sources of carbohydrates) are a better choice, especially when it comes to keeping your blood sugars in a healthy range.
Gaining More Weight
Know that food choices are extremely important.
If you are needing to gain additional weight to support your baby’s growth, it is key that the foods you select are nutrient-rich.
It is easy to gain weight by eating more junk food or empty calories, but the purpose here is to provide the nutrients needed to sustain your baby’s growth, and to optimize your baby’s ability to thrive.
As previously mentioned, a balance of 20% protein, 30% fat, and 50% carbohydrates is recommended, focusing on nutrient-rich foods whenever possible.
Sodas and juices should be avoided, as they are a major source of empty calories in the form of sugar.
Most fluids consumed during pregnancy should be water.
Eat more frequently.
It is common for women who are trying to gain weight to have five or six small meals every day when pregnant.
For many people struggling to gain adequate weight during pregnancy, this approach can make it more manageable and easier to get those extra (nutrient-rich) calories in.
When choosing meals, be sure to include more carbohydrates to help with weight gain.
These include foods such as pastas, rice, potatoes, breads, cereals, and other grain products.
In addition to carbohydrates, which help with weight gain, also be sure to eat balanced meals with sources of protein (meats, nuts, eggs, fish, etc) and a variety of vegetables and fruits.
Choose full-fat cheese and crackers, ice cream and yogurt, dried fruit or nuts for quick snacks to assist you in gaining weight while pregnant.
This preserves the nutrient value of your food, while enhancing the calorie count of what you consume.
Include more fat in your meals by using condiments such as sour cream, cheese or butter.
Again, this will enhance your calorie consumption without requiring you to “eat more,” per se.
Slowing Weight Gain
Choose healthier, lower fat options, avoiding condiments and regular dressings, to help you with appropriate weight gain during pregnancy.
One example would be switching to skim or 1% milk instead of whole milk and low-fat or fat-free cheese instead of the full-fat version.
Continue to consume three to four servings of dairy each day.
Cut out any "excess calories" that are not needed.
If you write out your daily diet, you may notice things that provide unwanted calories (without adding nutritional value) that can be removed from your diet.
For example, choosing water to drink over soft drinks, juices and other sugar-laced beverages that can ratchet up your caloric intake and cause you to gain unhealthy weight during pregnancy.
It is also helpful to avoid high-calorie snacks such as cake, cookies, candy and chips.
These don’t add any valued nutrition for your baby.
It can be of great help to cut back on carbohydrate consumption – foods such as pastas, rice, potatoes, breads, cereals, and other grain products.
These have high calorie counts and often contribute to unwanted weight gain.
Limit your salt intake. Salt causes your body to retain fluid.
Ask your doctor about what kind of exercise you can perform at your stage of pregnancy.
Moderate exercise such as swimming and walking can be a benefit to you and the baby, and can help burn extra calories.
Exercise has actually been shown to reduce potential complications of pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia and/or gestational diabetes (problems with your blood pressure and/or your blood sugars).
Exercise, in addition to preventing excess weight gain during pregnancy, also helps you to lose weight faster after pregnancy because you will have stayed in better shape, making it easier to resume an exercise routine after your baby is born.
Types of exercise to avoid include ones with high risks of falls or accidents (such as skiing, diving, horse-riding, or gymnastics), or ones where you could get hit with a ball (such as baseball or tennis), all of which pose a risk to the baby’s safety.