We have all heard the old saying that “you are eating for two.” This is not true!! You certainly should not be eating double the calories. Instead, your eating habits should focus on the fact that what you eat will affect both you and your baby’s health, now and in the future.
Too much weight gain can increase birth weight. There is pretty solid evidence linking excessive weight gain with risk of cesarean section. The risk of pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia (hypertension) also go up with increasing weight gain. It is isn’t easy to lose after delivery either. This is one of the leading causes of obesity in women.
Insufficient weight gain can also lead to problems. There is a correlation with too little weight gain with babies that are growth restricted. There also is an association with preterm labor.
Timing of weight gain is also important. During the first trimester, or the first three months of your pregnancy, weight gain is primarily from increasing blood volume. The majority of weight gain should occur after this time when the baby is gaining weight. During pregnancy, it is only necessary for you to eat 200-300 more calories per day. This is not very much..
So what is the “Goldilocks” amount of correct weight gain? This is based on your BMI (body mass index) prior to pregnancy. You can easily find a BMI calculator online. For a pregancy with one baby:
- If you are underweight (BMI less than 18.5), your total weight gain should be between 28 and 40 pounds.
- If you have a normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9), your weight gain should be between 25 and 35 pounds.
- If you are overweight (BMI 25-29.9), your weight gain should be between 15 and 25 pounds.
- If you are obese (BMI of 30 or more), your weight gain should be between 11 and 20 pounds. Many doctors advocate even less weight gain in obese women.
After your baby’s birth you will want to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight. Remember that it took many months to gain your pregnancy weight and will typically take time to lose it.
Breastfeeding is an excellent way to both provide the perfect nutrition for your baby but to also lose weight. It burns up to 500 calories per day. That is like running for 42 minutes! Of course, eating a proper diet and good nutrition are all important in successful weight loss.
Pregnancy is an unique time in your life. Be as healthy as you can be. Your kids are depending on you!
Bridget Terwilliger, CNM and John Thoppil, MD practice at River Place OBGYN in Austin, TX