How often have you heard that a pregnant woman needs to ‘eat for two’? Yes, you do need some extra calories for the baby growing inside you, but that doesn’t mean you double your calorie intake. It is important to gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy by eating a healthy and balanced diet which will fulfill your baby’s nutritional needs for him/her to grow at a healthy rate. The extra calories you really need every day during pregnancy is only about 300 more than you did before you were pregnant.
The need to gain weight during pregnancy
Weight gain during pregnancy helps nourish the baby and accumulate calories to produce milk for breast-feeding. You should gain weight at a steady pace. Inconsistent weight gain, too little or too much, can affect your baby adversely. Gaining very little weight during pregnancy can lead to premature delivery and low birth weight. It may also cause developmental delays and chronic health problems in your baby. On the contrary, putting on too much weight increases your risk of high blood pressure (pre-eclampsia) and gestational diabetes. It may also lead to an overweight or obese baby which may necessitate a cesarean birth. You may also have a tendency to retain too much weight after pregnancy which may cause higher weight and its accompanying problems in subsequent pregnancies.
Ideal weight gain during pregnancy
How much weight you should gain during your pregnancy depends on your body mass index or BMI (your body weight divided by the square of your height) before you conceived. And if you are expecting twins it becomes particularly important to gain the correct amount of weight because twins are often born before the due date.
- If you had a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 (average weight) before conceiving you should ideally have a weight gain between 11 and 16 kg. For the optimal growth of your baby you should gain around half a kg to 2 kg in the first trimester and about 2 kg every month thereafter for the rest of your pregnancy. If you are pregnant with twins, you should gain 18 to 23 kg.
- If your pre-pregnancy BMI was below 18.5 (underweight) you should gain 12 to 18 kg.
- If you had a BMI of 25 to 29.9 (overweight) you should gain around 7 to 11 kg. If pregnant with twins, you should gain around 14 to 22 kg.
- If you had a BMI of 30 or higher (obese), you should gain between 5 to 10 kg and around 11 to 19 kg if you are pregnant with twins.
The distribution of extra weight during pregnancy
Your baby will account for the 3.5 kg of your extra weight (11-16 kg). The rest of the extra weight is due to placenta (1-1.5 kg), amniotic fluid (1-1.5 kg), breast tissue (1-1.5 kg), blood supply (2 kg), stored fat (2-4 kg) and increased uterus size (1-2 kg).
It has taken you nine months to put on the weight. So, it’s fair enough that you may take just as long to reduce it. Most of the weight gained during pregnancy is lost soon after you give birth (weight of child, placenta, amniotic fluid and blood supply). In the first six weeks after delivery most women lose half of the weight they gained during pregnancy. With a healthy diet and regular exercise you can shed the extra kilos and keep them off for good.