Weight gain during pregnancy in inevitable and actually necessary. The challenge is that most women actually put on too much weight during pregnancy. A lot of women totally let themselves go which is why there is unnecessary weight gain.
Pregnancy weight gain in the US and other countries have been steadily increasing. It was earlier thought that higher maternal weight gain resulted in improved health of the infant at birth. Recent studies have found that there are more negative than positive effects of too much weigh gain. Some of these negative effects include;
- Undesirable outcomes at birth such the baby is too big to pass through the birth passage
- Child has higher risks of being overweight ( Am J Obstet Gynecol)
- Mother has lower chances of losing excess weight (Nutritional Reviews,
Approximately 40–50% of pregnant women gain more than what is the recommended pregnancy weight gain by current Institute of Medicine (IOM) guidelines as reported in the Epidemiology Review.
How much of pregnancy weight gain is too much? The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has the following guidelines on what’s healthy weight loss. These are based on a woman’s BMI (Body mass Index) before she conceived the baby;
- Underweight woman (BMI less than 18.5) : Gain 28-40 pounds
- Normal weight woman (BMI 18.5 to 24.9) : Gain 25-35 pounds
- Overweight woman (BMI 25 to 29.9) : Gain 15-25 pounds
- Obese woman (BMI more than 30) : Gain 11-20 pounds
The IOM guidelines do not advise any woman to lose weight while pregnant. Although the IOM guidelines allow a 11 to 20 pound weight gain for obese women, some experts believe that an obese woman may be able to give birth to a health baby with much less weight gain as compared to what is proposed.
In 2003, the average pregnancy weight gain was approximately 30.5 pounds according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Some women could retain up to 11 pounds of additional weight after 6 – 18 months of delivery.
According to experts, a pregnant mother needs a meager 300 calories in addition to her normal caloric intake. For a woman with a daily caloric intake of up to 1800 calories, it’s an additional 15%.
The challenge with pregnancy weight gain is that most women are already out of shape when conceiving. A lot of women are able to get away with starvation diets up to the point of pregnancy. Prior to pregnancy, lot of young women are able to maintain their skinny figures by missing meals or reducing food intake. But this too, comes at a cost. The metabolic system is usually severely compromised when these women conceive. The starvation diets result in considerable muscle loss which result in the sluggish metabolic rate. Pregnancy sends their weight into a downward spiral. It seems impossible to maintain a healthy weight gain during pregnancy and losing it after delivery.
Women who are in great shape when conceiving have the best chance to get in shape after delivery. Some experts now suggest women who are very overweight to get in shape before thinking of getting pregnant. The best advise for young women is to practice a healthy lifestyle that must include exercise. The exercise must consist of weight resistance and cardiovascular training. Preparation for pregnancy occurs long before conceiving. A fit and healthy mum will have a safer pregnancy and impose lesser risk on the unborn child.
Caveat : the above are only guidelines and women should refer to their doctors when determining healthy weight gain during their pregnancy.