Weight gain in pregnancy
Women will gain some weight in pregnancy but we all need to be careful not to gain too much – the old myth of ‘eating for two’ really isn’t advisable
anymore because gaining too much weight could be harmful and increasingly hard to shirt after your baby is here.
- According to the NHS (2011) it is normal for a pregnant woman to gain
between 22-28lb, most of which is gained after 20 weeks.
- The US Institute of Medicine (Rasmussen and Yaktine 2009) states that obese women many only need to
gain between 11–20lb.
The majority of the weight gained during pregnancy is due to your baby but you will also need to store some fat
to provide enough energy for breastfeeding.
This is a rough idea to normal weight gain by the end of pregnancy:
- A baby weighs about 7.3lb
- The placenta weighs 1.5lb
- The amniotic fluid weighs 1.8lb
- Your womb weighs 2lb
- Your blood volume increases,and weighs about 2.6lb
- The extra fluid in your body weighs 2.6lb
- Your breasts weigh an extra 0.9lb
- Your stored fat weighs about 8.7lb
Reducing unnecessary weight gain
- You don’t need additional energy in the first six months of pregnancy and after that you only need an extra 200 calories a day.
- Managing your weight is not about dieting or trying to lose weight, it’s about looking after yourself and your baby by eating healthily and keeping active.
This can help you feel better and limit the extra pounds you might otherwise put on,
which you may struggle to lose after your baby is born. (www.tommys.org)
What is the problem with too much weight?
Carrying a lot of extra weight at the start of pregnancy can increase your risk of complications during
your pregnancy and labour. According to joint guidance from the Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries and the Royal College of
Obstetricians and Gynaecologists:
- the complications during pregnancy and childbirth include the risk of impaired glucose tolerance
and gestational diabetes, miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, thromboembolism and maternal death
- an obese woman is more likely to have an induced or longer labour,an instrumental delivery, caesarean section
or postpartum haemorrhage (Yu et al. 2006). Reduced mobility during labour can result in the need for
more pain relief, which could be difficult to administer, resulting in an increased need for general
anaesthesia with its associated risks.
- After birth, wound healing can be slower with an increased risk of
infection, and obese women are more likely to require extra support in establishing breastfeeding,
due to, for example, difficulties in latching the baby on to the breast (Heslehurst et al. 2007).
Low weight women
Women who start off their pregnancies underweight are advised to gain between 28 and 40 pounds in weight. When trying to gain weight, eating healthily is just as important.
Tips for healthy weight gain include:
- Eat well with quality calories rather than filling up on sugary treats
- Try to eat more foods that are high in good fats, such as nuts, fatty fish, avocados, and olive oil
- Don’t skip any meals and instead of eating 3 big meals each day you might benefit from eating 5 – 6 smaller meals every day but try to avoid junk food with empty calories
If you have any concerns about being under or overweight, speak to your midwife who can refer you to a dietician.