Gaining weight during pregnancy

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The old tale of eating for two is not backed up by science and while more nutrition is needed a sensible diet can aid in birth and help you recover from the birth quicker, as well as give health benefits to your new born child.

What does the science say about maternal weight gain?

First off, weight gain is both normal and to be expected. As well as the baby which at term will weigh between 2.5 – 4kg, you get to carry around up

• placenta: 0.5-1kg
• amniotic fluid: 0.5-1kg
• increased blood volume and fluids (yours): 2-4kg
• the extra weight of uterus, breasts and fat and protein stores: 2-5kg
There is clearly a lot going on.

In a wide scale study by Goldstein, Abell and Ranasinha et al* which looked at data from over 1.3 million pregnancies showed that gestational weight gain which is over or under the target was correlated with increased risk of adverse outcomes such as low or high birth rate, early delivery or need for a caesarean section.

The study showed 47% of the pregnancies studied were over the recommended weight gain and 23% were below the advised weight gain. Based on the Institute of Medicine women who are underweight (a Body Mass Index (BMI) or less than 18.5) should have a target weight gain of 12.5 to 18 KG, women who have a standard weight (BMI of between 18.5 to 24.9) would add 11.5 to 16kg and for women with a higher BMI ( BMI between 25 – 29.9) would expect to add between 7 -11 KG or those with a BMI greater than 30 would expect to add 2 to 9 KG.

Details of the study can be found here

Eating while Pregnant

In practical terms, The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists suggests that pregnant women do not need to eat any extra for the first two trimesters and in the third should only consume an extra 200 calories per day. That’s about 2 bandanas.

Like most things don’t obsess over this, enjoy the odd second helping, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can eat twice as much, as I this won’t be good for you or the baby.

Nutrition during pregnancy

While you may not be able to eat any more, you can change what you eat. A balanced diet is important, and there are certain vitamins and minerals which are important. Calcium for bones, Omega oils for brains and eyes, and Iron for the blood.

Try and use eat more complex carbohydrates, fibre is great for your body, so swap wholegrain bread for white, or porridge with fruit for breakfast instead of sugary cereals. Load up on vegetables of course, and eat moderates amounts of lean meat, fish (especially oily fish, such as mackerel, fresh tuna (not canned as the oils are lost through the canning process), trout or salmon which are high in omega oils), or other sources of protein such as eggs or pulses (beans and chickpeas, hummus was one of my favourites during pregnancy), and moderates amount of dairy, if you can’t consume dairy or choose not to look for enriched dairy-free alternatives. Again your midwife may have additional advice for vegans or those with allergies to ensure healthy nutrition for your child.

Ensure you have healthy snacks on hand when cravings and hunger comes. Nuts are a great source if protein and very filling. I found that pretzels helped with my morning sickness.
As always drink plenty of non-alcoholic drinks, avoid sugary ones including fruit juices which contain high levels of sugar but lack many of the beneficial nutrients of actual fruit.


Read more top tips on what to eat while pregant 

Do I need to have pregnancy supplements?

Some expectant mums choose to take supplements, aside from folic acid and vitamin D which doctors do recommend these supplements are often not vital if you already have a balanced diet but they do provide peace of mind. If you are concerned about your diet speak to your midwife or doctor.

Folic Acid. While it is recommended that those intended to get pregnant and those pregnant up to 12 weeks should take folic acid supplements, it’s also worth eating foods rich in folic acid, such as oranges, green leafy vegetables, berries, beetroot and wholemeal bread, in addition to the supplements.

Vitamin D is another important part of your diet. It’s important for health bone development. Vitamin D is produced in your skin when exposed to sunlight and so taking moderate exposure to sunlight had health benefits. But in the winter in the UK we may not get enough vitamin D, or if you have darker skin, so again supplements may be a solution. If you are concerned again talk to your midwife, doctor or health visitor, some people may he eligible for free vitamin D.

Losing weight during pregnancy

Doctors strongly advise against this as your baby will require various nutrients from your diet and reducing your food intake reduces what available for your baby. If you are concerned talk to your midwife or doctor.

What is gestational diabetes and what helps avoid it

Gestational Diabetes is too much sugar in your bloodstream. Normally sugar in your blood is regulated by a hormone called insulin, but during pregnancy the body can sometime not produce enough.

Often this is nothing to do with your weight, and is caused by genetics. But additional weight gain during pregnancy is a factor. You can read more about the risks and symptoms on the NHS website.

Exercising while Pregnant

Exercise is great for you and for your baby, and the health benefits are clear. Pregnancy is a time of change anyway so why not try and work in more exercise.
As well as the physical benefits exercise produces hormones which help your mental well being as well, and can help reduce the chance of postnatal depression. Being fitter helps support your body as the pregnancy progresses, it can also help you sleep better, important when the bump makes sleep difficult.
Experts recommend exercising at least three times a week and work on both your Aerobic exercise such as walking or running and Muscle strengthening exercises which are great for improving strength and posture.
Here are some suggestions
• Walking
• Swimming – Look out for mummy swimming groups at your local swimming pool
• Yoga
• Aerobics
• Running
• Pilates
But simple things like taking the stairs not a lift or walking somewhere rather than taking the car.
Avoid exercise where there is a risk of falling or being bumped. Rugby or Roller Derby is I am afraid out for the duration of a pregnancy.
Again your midwife can help advise and may well know local places to meet up with other mums and mums to be.
Lastly, don’t forget to do you Pelvic Floor exercises.

What is BMI and how to calculate yours

Body Mass Index is a way to estimate how a person’s weight affects their health. Essentially it takes their weight and height to estimate the amount of fat. It’s not a perfect system, Heavy Weight boxers BMI suggest they are obese, because of all the muscle, but it’s a handy way to estimate the healthy weight. Use your before pregnant weight to find out your BMI.
Use the NHS calculator to see your BMI
content provided by NHS Choices

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