Weight is an issue that many women struggle with at some point in their lives – whether they weigh too much, too little, or just think they have a weight problem, many women (I admit, myself included!) always seem to be on a diet in pursuit of the perfect look and the ideal weight.
In theory, achieving and maintaining an ideal weight is simple: consume the same number of calories as you burn during exercise and during the course of your normal every day activities, and your weight should not change. Up your calorie intake if you want to gain weight; increase your exercise and/or decrease your calorie intake if you want to lose weight. But what happens if you become pregnant? Weight gain during pregnancy is normal and healthy, but how much should you weigh when you are expecting?
Weight gain during pregnancy
There is no exact answer to the question of “how much should I weigh during pregnancy?” Clearly, as your baby grows, you will get heavier, but the extent depends on several factors including your pre-pregnancy weight, and of course, how much you eat and exercise! An ‘average’ pregnant woman will gain somewhere between 17 lbs and 35 lbs, distributed approximately as follows:
• Baby: as your baby grows it will add up to 8 lbs on average.
• Placenta: this is an extra organ that you grow in the uterus during pregnancy to provide your child with oxygen. It adds 2–3 lbs.
• Amniotic fluid: your unborn baby grows inside a sac that is filled with this fluid, which acts as a shock absorber and helps the baby to grow. The fluid alone can weigh 2–3 lbs.
• Breasts: most women find their breasts get bigger and add 2–3 lbs in weight as they prepare for breastfeeding.
• Blood: when pregnant, your heart gets bigger and you have approximately twice as much blood circulating your body to help provide the baby with oxygen. The extra blood can weigh up to 4 lbs.
• Fat: when pregnant, your body stores 5–9 lbs more fat than usual as this is used to help cushion your body during labor, and to help manufacture milk for breastfeeding.
• Uterus: as your baby grows, so does your uterus. The extra weight adds another 2–5 lbs.
As a guide, for a woman who begins pregnancy with a healthy weight (check with your doctor to see what “healthy weight” means for you), a healthy rate of weight gain during pregnancy would be approximately 2–4 lbs during the first three months (first trimester), and approximately 1 lb per week thereafter.
This rate of weight gain can be achieved by consuming approximately 300 extra calories per day. Many women think that they can “eat for two” during pregnancy and eat whatever they like, but literally consuming twice the normal amount of food is in fact likely to cause excess weight gain, which could lead to complications such as high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. Three hundred extra calories is only approximately equivalent to an extra sandwich at lunchtime, so there is no need to pig out!
If you begin pregnancy either over or underweight, or if you become over or underweight during your pregnancy, you should consult your physician’s advice – never try to lose weight, or gain more weight than is usually recommended, without speaking to a qualified doctor as this may harm your baby’s development and your health.