Although it is critical that you gain weight during pregnancy to ensure your baby grows and develops properly, pregnancy is not ‘carte blanche’ to gain all the weight you want, and yet it is also critical to not be underweight during pregnancy. There is such a thing as unhealthy weight gain during pregnancy and you should be aware of the risks.
Healthy weight gain varies depending on several factors including your pre-pregnancy weight (based on your height and body type). If you were healthy before pregnancy and within a normal weight range for your height and body type, you should typically gain 25 to 35 pounds. If you were underweight for your height and body type before pregnancy, you need to gain 28 to 40 pounds. If you were overweight for your height and body type before pregnancy, you should gain 15 to 25 pounds. Basically, the average woman gains 29 to 31 pounds during a full term pregnancy.
Too Much Weight Gain during Pregnancy
Perhaps you have a friend that gained 50 or 60 pounds during pregnancy – this is very unhealthy and twice the recommended average for a healthy woman. Gaining too much weight has many risks and side effects. As the mom-to-be, rapid weight gain in excess of recommended averages poses many health risks including the sudden onset of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and an elevated risk of cesarean delivery.
From a purely physical perspective, excessive and rapid weight gain during pregnancy will contribute to a long and uncomfortable pregnancy; riddled with chronic fatigue, backaches, ongoing leg pains, varicose veins and the dreaded stretch marks.
Gaining weight at a steady rate within recommended boundaries can also lower your chance of having hemorrhoids, varicose veins, stretch marks, backache, fatigue, indigestion, and shortness of breath during pregnancy.
Too Little Weight Gain During Pregnancy
At the opposite extreme, there are equally as many risks if you do not gain enough weight during pregnancy. It is essential to gain weight at a steady pace throughout the 9 months of pregnancy. Your unborn child needs the nutrients and vitamins that you provide via your eating habits.
Complications to the child include low birth weight infants and premature delivery. When mothers gain less than 20 pounds during pregnancy, the baby is considered small for gestational age (SGA) and is considered malnourished.
Striking a Healthy Balance
The goal is to keep weight gain as steady as possible because your baby requires a daily supply of nutrients throughout your pregnancy that comes from what you eat. It is perfectly fine if your weight fluctuates from one week to the next, this is actually normal. In the first trimester you might not gain as much weight as you should due to morning sickness, but this will pass. If you suddenly gain or lose a lot of weight in your 3rd trimester, you should speak with your doctor as this may be a sign of preeclampsia.
The best advice is to eat properly, using the National Food Guide if you are unsure of how much intake you need from each of the important food groups. Stay active to reduce aches and pains and to keep the weight from piling on unnecessarily. Stay clear of binge foods that contain empty calories, and have no nutritional value to the child or to you. Eating sensibly during pregnancy also makes it that much easier to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight after your baby is born.