Weight gain is still a big concern for some, even though mamas-to-be have a whole host of other things to be thinking about once you find that you’re pregnant.
Weight gain in pregnancy is a question that comes up frequently, with everyday worries about gaining too much weight or not gaining enough, particularly if the first trimester is challenging with nausea, food aversions and cravings.
Struggles with trying to “eat healthily” in the first few weeks of pregnancy often bring anxiety and stress along for the ride.
Eating all of those carbs (because that’s all that you can stomach) may leave you feeling anxious about gaining too much weight and not having enough nourishment for both you and your baby.
It is important to keep an eye on weight during pregnancy (within reason, of course) so let’s look at why.
Why Should Weight Gain During Pregnancy Be Considered?
Weight gain will be different for every soon-to-be mama, and how much weight you gain is determined by your height and pre-pregnancy weight. These measurements go into your Body Mass Index (BMI). To calculate your BMI go to the BMI Calculator.
Health care providers monitor weight throughout pregnancy to help you achieve a healthy pregnancy for both you and your baby and avoid gaining too much or too little weight.
Gaining more than the recommended amount of weight in pregnancy is often associated with having a larger birth weight baby, potentially leading to complications during delivery and an increased risk of a caesarean section.
Gaining more than the recommended amount of weight can also be quite challenging to lose for mamas postpartum.
Gaining weight steadily is best during pregnancy, but it’s important to remember that everyone’s needs are unique. Instead of focusing solely on the scale number, concentrate on eating well and including the right foods into your diet.
The scale doesn’t tell us whether your baby is getting all of the nourishment they need but the foods you choose most definitely will.
A few things to consider include metabolism, genetics, gut health and activity levels. A healthy weight gain can often be achieved through balanced nutrition and lifestyle, taking bio-individuality into account every single time, along with listening to your body cues and hunger signals.
Bio-individuality reminds us that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to health and nutrition, especially during pregnancy. We are all unique with individualised nutritional requirements, and with bio-individuality, we recognise that dietary needs can differ based on internal and external factors.
What’s An Average Weight Gain?
Up to date studies have revealed that around a third of women gained the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy while 21% didn’t gain enough, and 48% gained too much.
Weight gain recommendations are based on evidence-based research that gaining too much weight or not gaining enough can contribute to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum complications.
Saying that, though weight gain alone isn’t the only indicator of a poor pregnancy outcome, there isn’t any hard evidence to date that constantly monitoring weight gain at every appointment is beneficial in reducing the risk of pregnancy complications.
Gaining Too Much Weight In Pregnancy Can Have An Increased Risk Of Developing-
- Gestational diabetes
- Back pain
- Leg pain
- Increased fatigue
- Varicose veins
- Increased risk of caesarean delivery
- High blood pressure
So, How Much Weight Gain Is Considered “Healthy”?
This is where it gets interesting because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all weight gain.
Weight gained during the first, second and third trimesters depends on BMI before pregnancy, and according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, gaining 2-4 lbs during the first trimester is considered “healthy”, with about 1 lb acquired each week for the remainder of the pregnancy.
What’s important to note is that a steady weight gain through a slow increase in calories to satisfy hunger and supply both you and your baby with a constant source of nutrients for a healthy pregnancy is key.
But is a steady weight gain realistic in pregnancy?
In theory, yes, but in fact, most weight gain varies throughout pregnancy and doesn’t follow a straight line.
You may see a bump up on the scale in the 2nd trimester, as this is when blood volume increases by almost 50%, which can account for some of the weight gains we often see.
Meal planning is the best way of knowing what to eat during pregnancy. Starting the day off with a balanced breakfast that includes healthy fats, ample protein, fibre, and slow-burning carbohydrates will help maintain blood sugars and control cravings, nausea and food aversions throughout the day.
If you can’t stomach this type of breakfast, try having a little of what you can tolerate and follow it up with healthy fats and protein in 20 minutes, when your blood sugars, nausea, and food aversions have hopefully settled down.
Limiting processed foods, trans fats, added sugars and replacing them with whole foods is the key to a healthy weight gain during pregnancy. Focus on gut health through diet and lifestyle to optimise your health and your baby’s lifelong health.
Extra Weight During Pregnancy Can Be Accounted For With-
- How much baby weighs at 40 weeks – 8lbs
- How much the placenta weighs – 2-3lbs
- Amniotic fluid – 2-3lbs
- Breast tissue – 2-3lbs
- Increased blood volume- 4lbs
- Maternal stores of fat (necessary for breastfeeding) – 5-9lbs
- Weight of the uterus – 2-5lbs
- Grand Total = 25-35lbs
How To Avoid Too Much Weight Gain
Focus on “Nourishment For Two” to help give you and your baby the essentials necessary for healthy growth and development.
Skip any dieting advice and avoid missing out on meals whenever possible. Skipping meals leads to fluctuating blood sugars, with cravings, nausea and food aversions becoming prevalent.
Include movement in your day. If you’re concerned about working out in pregnancy, try low-impact exercises like swimming, walking, prenatal yoga.
Avoid processed foods, trans fats, added sugars whenever possible. Balance your meals with protein, healthy fats, fibre & complex carbs and avoid processed foods. Remember to try and eat a breakfast that includes protein and healthy fats.
Optimise your gut health. Including a variety of plant-based foods in your diet will help to provide you with plenty of fibre to keep you feeling fuller for longer and feed your gut microbiome. I’m talking about leafy greens, of course, but also include plenty of colourful fruits/vegetables along with nuts, seeds, legumes, lentils, chickpeas, plain coconut yoghurt etc.
- A healthy weight gain during pregnancy will help you avoid complications including gestational diabetes, high blood sugars, poor gut health and possibly the need for a caesarean section.
- How much weight you can safely gain depends on your pre-pregnancy weight and BMI. Everyone is different.
- The key is to increase your calories slowly to satisfy hunger during each trimester with nutrient-dense foods, rather than processed foods filled with calories and minimal nutrients.
- Weight gained during pregnancy is distributed between maternal weight gain, baby weight, amniotic fluid, blood volume etc.
- Gradual weight gain is essential to provide you and your baby with a steady supply of nutrients throughout pregnancy.
If you are trying to conceive or are pregnant and would like support through your journey, join us in The Nourished Mama Circle.
This preconception and pregnancy group support programme is where you’ll be joined by other mamas-to-be. For just $37 a month, you’ll receive live group calls, nourished mama meal plans, up-to-date resources for all things preconception and pregnancy nutrition, along with so much more.