Weight gain is a normal part of pregnancy, but seeing the scale continue to go up scares a lot of new moms. Here are vital information and tips to help you gain a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy – and why you shouldn’t stress about losing the pregnancy weight postpartum.
If you are like me, the sight of your weight climbing up on the scale may give you some heartburn. Rest assured, you are supposed to gain weight during pregnancy, and that heartburn is probably due to the baby inside your belly anyway.
That said, you should be mindful of what you eat and lead a healthy lifestyle to make sure you are gaining the right amount of weight at the right time throughout your pregnancy.
If you just found out you are pregnant, first of all, congrats! Let’s start the pregnancy with healthy eating habits to ensure your little pea gets all the nutrition he or she needs.
If you are further along and are either falling short or already went over the recommended weight gain, do not despair! There is still time to get your pregnancy weight gain back on track. Do keep in mind that every woman’s body is different, and these are general guidelines, so work with your healthcare provider to determine what’s right for you.
Importance of Managing Pregnancy Weight Gain
Between morning sickness and pregnancy cravings, a scale is the last thing a pregnant woman wants to think about. However, as a mom, you need to be diligent and strong for your baby. Gaining the right amount of pregnancy weight is vital for you and your baby’s health.
Too much weight gain during pregnancy can lead to (source):
- Gestational diabetes
- Preterm delivery
- Complications during labor and delivery due to fetal macrosomia (baby born weighing more than 8 pounds, 3 ounces)
- Birth defects
- Increased chance of getting stretch marks
- Difficulty losing weight after childbirth
Too little weight gain during pregnancy can lead to:
- Preterm delivery
- A baby with low birth weight (weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces)
Recommended Pregnancy Weight Gain
Based on the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (ACOG), the recommended weight gain during pregnancy for a “normal” weight woman is 25-35 pounds. To find out if you fall under the normal, underweight, overweight, or obese weight category, you need to calculate your BMI, or Body Mass Index. You can do so by dividing your weight (in kilograms) by the square of your height (in meters).
Singleton Pregnancy Weight Gain Recommendations Chart (ACOG)
How do I Keep Track?
I recommend using babyMed’s Pregnancy Weight Gain Calculator Week By Week to keep track of your pregnancy weight gain. You need to input your height, weight before pregnancy, and due date and the calculator will spit out the recommended weight range for every week of your pregnancy.
You can use the calculator in conjunction with CDC’s printable Weight Gain Tracker to ensure that your weight gain is within the recommended range.
Where is the Pregnancy Weight Going?
The average weight of a full-term newborn is between 5 pounds, 11 ounces and 8 pounds, 6 ounces. So where did the rest of the pregnancy weight go? While some of the weight gain does go to your thighs (argh chaffing!), the extra fat storage is necessary for the increase in energy requirements. Here is the breakdown of the 30 pounds weight gain (source):
- Baby: 7.5 lbs
- Placenta: 1.5 lbs
The placenta is an organ that attaches to the wall of your uterus during pregnancy and helps deliver nutrients to your baby as well as remove waste products. You deliver the placenta after you deliver your baby, which was one of the many things that shocked me about postpartum.
- Amniotic fluid: 2 lbs
Amniotic fluid is the fluid around your baby in the uterus.
- Uterine enlargement: 2 lbs
Your uterus is going to grow from the size of an orange to the size of a watermelon during pregnancy. Pretty amazing stuff.
- Breast tissue: 2 lbs
Hello, beautiful breasts and cleavage!
- Body fluids: 4 lbs
Hello, swollen ankles and feet!
- Increase in blood volume: 4 lbs
Your blood supply will increase by 50% during pregnancy.
- Fat stores: 7 lbs
Your body stores extra fat during pregnancy in preparation for breastfeeding. These fat reserves will provide the fuel (calories) for breastmilk production.
Tips for Weighing Yourself
If you are the type who never steps on the scale, it’s time to start. There are even smart scales that have pregnancy trackers now that show you if you are within the healthy weight gain range. You don’t have to weigh yourself every day but consider doing it at least once a week to make sure your weight is on track.
When weighing yourself, you should:
- Weight yourself at the same time every day. I recommend first thing in the morning before you have breakfast so that you always weigh yourself on an empty stomach.
- Wear the same amount of clothing. You may choose to step on the scale with nothing on at all, and that’s perfectly fine.
- Always use the same scale (check out these best pregnancy scales). I have a few scales around the house, and they all vary slightly.
One thing that I did find funny toward the end of the pregnancy is that I can no longer look down and see the reading on my scale. Since my big belly was blocking my view, I always had to get off the scale before I could check my weight.
Managing Weight During Pregnancy
If you are already underweight or overweight before getting pregnant, you may want to consider getting to a healthy weight before you conceive.
However, if you are overweight and already pregnant, DO NOT DIET OR ATTEMPT TO LOSE WEIGHT DURING PREGNANCY. If your baby does not get enough nutrients from your diet, he or she will start taking nutrients from your body. As a result, your health will suffer.
The foods you eat during pregnancy can have a long-term effect on the health of your baby. Below are some healthy living tips to ensure your weight stays on track:
- Eat a variety of food.
Include lots of organic fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, grains, and healthy fats in your diet. Go for foods that are packed full of calcium, folic acid, fiber, and iron. Avoid junk food, fast food, sweets, and other proceeded foods, even though a scoop of ice cream here and there is okay. In general, when it comes to treats, choose ones made from natural sugars like raw honey or coconut sugar instead of processed white sugar.
- Eat small meals.
Eating several small meals a day instead of three large ones may help with morning sickness and prevent heartburn.
- Eat healthy fats.
Healthy fats (monounsaturated fatty acids) such as the ones found in avocados and nuts help build the skin, brain, and tissues of your baby.
- Exercise regularly.
The safest and most effective exercises during pregnancy are swimming and walking. You should consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine. Staying active and fit during pregnancy will help you lose pregnancy weight after giving birth.
- Take prenatal vitamins.
Just in case what you eat during your pregnancy does not completely fulfill all the nutritional needs of the baby, taking a daily dose of prenatal vitamins can help.
- Consult with your healthcare provider.
Your OB//GYN or midwife can suggest a plan to follow to get your weight back on track. Especially if you are having pregnancy nausea (a.k.a. morning sickness) and cannot keep anything down, you need to speak to your healthcare provider immediately. They can also refer you to a nutritionist who will be able to help you determine what foods to eat to ensure you are providing your pregnant body with the proper nutrition.
Losing the Pregnancy Weight
For some women, pregnancy weight seems to disappear after giving birth. For others, it takes years before getting back into pre-pregnancy weight.
Remember, it took your body nine months to gain all the pregnancy weight. Don’t feel the pressure to lose it all right after childbirth. Give yourself time to recover and check in with your healthcare provider at your 6-week checkup before resuming any intense exercise routines. If you are breastfeeding, do not try and drastically reduce your weight – a sudden decrease in calories in your diet may reduce your breastmilk supply.
The key is to gradually increase your food intake (with the right kind of foods) and the amount of exercise during pregnancy. Then after you give birth, continue to eat a healthy diet and exercise (after you get the thumbs up from your doctor), and the weight should come off slowly.
Related Post: Postpartum Wellness: Tips from a Registered Dietitian
Breastfeeding and weight loss
Breastfeeding can help with postpartum weight loss. It takes energy to fuel breastmilk production – approximately 500 calories per day. Therefore, you will naturally lose weight while breastfeeding, IF you are not “making up” the calories with sweets or junk food.
Struggling to lose that last 5 pounds? It may be due to breastfeeding. Prolactin, the breastfeeding hormone that causes your body to produce milk, also causes your body to store extra fat as an energy reserve in case your body does not provide enough calories. Therefore, be patient and focus on breastfeeding your baby instead of stressing about weight loss, and your body will shed the extra weight in due time.
When it comes to pregnancy weight gain, slow and steady wins the race. Your body is working hard to create a life, and you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle to ensure that you and your baby get the proper nutrition. Keeping your weight in check during pregnancy isn’t the easiest thing in the world, especially if you have intense morning sickness or pregnancy cravings. Just keep picturing your baby in your belly and be strong mama! You can do this!
Did you have trouble keeping your pregnancy weight gain on track? Any advice for pregnant mamas? Tell me in the comments!