Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pregnancy Weight Gain: How much is too much?

It is that time of the year when many of us are pondering the past year and making goals and resolutions for the next year. A very common new years resolution is regarding weight loss. It is true that many of us could stand to be significantly slimmer for better health, but what are appropriate goals for weight gain if we are pregnant?

All women need to gain some weight while pregnant to support the healthy growth of their baby. How much weight is appropriate is contingent upon how much you weighed before you became pregnant. The BMI (body mass index) is a measure of how much you weigh as compared to your height. It is not an exact measure of body fatness, but it is a good estimate. You can calculate your BMI here

Based on your BMI, if you weight is healthy for your height, the recommended weight gain total is 25-35 pounds. But, if your BMI is too high or too low, or if you're carrying twins, the recommendations shift.

Pre-Pregnancy BMI
Total Weight Gain
Underweight (BMI < 18.5)
28 to 40 pounds (about 13 to 18 kilograms)
Healthy weight (BMI 18.5 to 24.9)
25 to 35 pounds (about 11 to 16 kilograms)
Overweight (BMI 25 to 29.9)
15 to 25 pounds (about 7 to 11 kilograms)
Obese (BMI > 30)
11 to 20 pounds (about 5 to 9 kilograms)

If you're carrying twins, the recommendations increase a bit:

Pre-Pregnancy BMI
Total Weight Gain
Healthy weight (BMI 18.5 to 24.9)
37 to 54 pounds (about 17 to 25 kilograms)
Overweight (BMI 25 to 29.9)
31 to 50 pounds (about 14 to 23 kilograms)
Obese (BMI > 30)
25 to 42 pounds (about 11 to 19 kilograms)

Where does that weight go? Besides the weight of the baby, the changes a woman's body include a few pounds of fat, increase in the size of the placenta and breasts and an expansion of the blood volume and amniotic fluid.

The risk of gaining too much or too little is worth discussion. We are learning more about the long term effects of the intrauterine environment on the health of the baby. It does matter what you eat for your health and for the health of your child.

What about calories? Too many women take pregnancy as as carte blanche for scarfing in the kitchen (and the drive through and the carry out). The often quoted statistic is that women need, on average, 300 extra calories per day. Unfortunately, the fine print is often lost. In the first trimester of pregnancy, women need, wait for it, ZERO extra calories per day! The needs increase in the second and third trimester, but the extra calories required can be fulfilled with a half of a sandwich, or a yogurt. Keep in mind that as a woman's belly grows, her level of physical activity (and energy) often decline and so fewer calories may not actually be needed.

Being a parent is hard. Being a good parent is even harder. Focus on the big picture make sure that fruits and vegetables are the basis of most of your meals and snacks. Everyone aspires to have a healthy family; a healthy pregnancy is a great place to start.

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