Need to know facts about pregnancy weight gain
Why you get bigger in pregnancy and how to maintain a healthy weight when you do
While you might see celebrity photos of glamorous mums to be with tiny, tidy bumps, there’s no need to worry about weight when you’re pregnant. There are lots of exciting reasons that you are putting on weight and ways to stay healthy.
How much weight will I put on in pregnancy?
Everyone is different, but on average, most women put on around 1.8kg (4lbs) in the first trimester, 0.5kg (1lb) a week in the second trimester and 4.6kg (10lbs) in the third trimester.
In the UK there is no official guideline for weight gain, because women’s physiques can be so different. However, as a rough guide, here are the likely average healthy weight gains as used for reference in the US.
- If you are underweight you’ll gain around gain 28-40lb (12.7-18.1kg) during pregnancy.
- If you are a normal weight you’ll gain 25-35lb (11.3-15.9kg) during pregnancy.
- If you are overweight you’ll gain about 15-25lb (6.8-11.3kg) in pregnancy.
- If you are obese you’ll gain about 11-20lb (5-9.1kg) in pregnancy.
Why pregnancy weight gain is important
Your baby as your baby gets all of its nutrients from you through the umbilical cord. This means that if you are not eating properly, nor is your baby.
Research shows that eating too little whilst you are pregnant, so dieting or starving yourself, puts your baby at risk of premature birth or being born with a low-birth weight. In addition to this, eating too much, especially of the wrong foods can put your baby at risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and blood pressure problems later in life.
What causes pregnancy weight gain?
Pregnancy weight is made up of more than just your baby. Luckily for us (and please do cling on to this thought as you weigh yourself) the weight you put on during pregnancy is not all body fat.
- Baby weight gain roughly comprises of:
- Muscle development = 3.2 kg
- Increased body fluid = 1.8 kg
- Increased blood = 1.4 to 1.8 kg
- Breast growth = 0.5 to 0.9 kg
- Enlarged uterus = 0.9 kg
- Amniotic fluid = 0.9 kg
- The placenta = 0.7 kg
- Your baby = 2.7 to 3.6 kg
- Your total weight gain in pregnancy is likely to be around 12kg to 13.8 kg.
What is healthy pregnancy weight gain?
At the moment, we do not have an official UK chart of what is normal or excessive weight gain in pregnancy. As a result, many midwives use the current American guidelines as a reference point (see above). However, every expectant mum is a different shape and weight, so it really depends what your starting point is.
You might even find that, if you’re cutting out drinking and you’ve lost your appetite for certain rich foods, you might even lose weight at first.
There are reasons why it’s important not to put on too much extra weight:
- All your body's organs are already being put under pressure, including your heart which is pumping extra blood to the placenta.
- Your legs and back are supporting your growing bump, so the last thing you need is additional stress on joints.
- Birth is a physically demanding experience (so is parenthood) so you want to stay as fit and healthy as possible even.
The ‘eating for two’ myth
The general rule of thumb is, try not to think of pregnancy as an excuse for ‘eating for two’. You don’t need to double your intake of food, instead, think of keeping yourself and your baby refueled.
If you’re eating a balanced, healthy diet, your baby will be benefiting from what is being passed through to them. If you feel hungry or lack energy, up your intake by about 250 to 300 calories per day, making sure those calories are spent on foods that will give you energy and keep you feeling full. A packet of crisps, for example, will not satisfy your hunger as efficiently as a banana or a handful of nuts.
In addition to eating well, you could consider doing about 20 minutes of gentle exercise a day. You don’t have to go mad, but a stroll around the park with your buggy, gentle swimming or postnatal yoga once a week can really help to shed those pounds. Before you start, do read our advice on How to exercise safely during pregnancy.
Do you have any tips for shifting baby weight? Let us know by tweeting us @GurgleUK or follow our Facebook Page.