Congratulations, you’re pregnant! The following nine months will see you gaining more weight, as your baby grows inside you. Gaining weight during pregnancy is not a bad thing. It is your body’s way of feeding your baby with the nutrients he/she needs to grow and develop. However, you have to be careful about the amount of weight you put on. It is not advisable to gain too much or too little weight.
How much is enough?
There is no fixed rule in terms of the kilos you should gain. Every woman is different, depending on her body weight before she became pregnant. If you had normal Body Mass Index (BMI) before pregnancy, then you should gain an average of 11 to 15 kg (25 to 35 pounds) during pregnancy. If you were underweight, then you should gain between 13 and 18 kg (28 and 40 pounds). Overweight women may only need to gain 6 to 11 kg (15-25 pounds).
But don’t worry, you do not have to figure this out on your own. Your doctor will be able to advise you during every checkup. You will not gain all this weight immediately. Generally, you should gain about 1 to 2 kg during your first three months of pregnancy and 0.5kg a week for the next two trimesters. If you are expecting twins, you should gain between 15 and 20kg (35 and 45 pounds) during pregnancy. This should work out to 1-2kg in the first three months, and an average of 0.6kg per week after that. Not all the weight will be made up by your baby alone. Most of the weight is actually distributed between tissues that support your baby’s growth and development (see Table).
Table: Where the weight goes during pregnancy
|Where it goes||Amount of weight|
|Baby||3.6 kg (8 pounds)|
|Placenta||0.9-1.3 kg (2-3 pounds)|
|Amniotic fluid||0.9-1.3 kg (2-3 pounds)|
|Breast tissue||0.9-1.3 kg (2-3 pounds)|
|Blood supply||1.8 kg (4 pounds)|
|Fat stores for delivery and breastfeeding||2.3-4 kg (5-9 pounds)|
|Uterus increase||0.9-4 kg (2-5 pounds)|
|TOTAL||11-15 kg (25-35 pounds)|
Eating for weight gain
Firstly, let me dispel the myth that a woman should “eat for two” during pregnancy. That is a misguided belief because it leads a women to eat too much and gain excess weight during pregnancy. You do need extra calories to meet the needs of your growing baby, but this should not exceed 100-300 calories above your average daily intake. You do not need to change your entire eating habits just to gain these calories. Continue to eat a healthy, balanced diet and focus on getting calories from nutrient-rich foods such as whole-grain foods, low-fat milk and dairy products, lean meat, fish, eggs, beans and nuts.
Avoid loading up on high-calorie foods such as cookies, chocolates, ice-cream, cakes and potato chips because these provide too many calories with few other beneficial nutrients. Instead of heaping the food on your plate at every meal, trying eating smaller and more frequent meals every day. If you feel hungry in between meals, have a light snack, such as fruits, raisins, nuts, yoghurt or crackers.
Other healthy eating habits are just as important during pregnancy. For example, consume salt and fats in moderation. When cooking or eating out, choose low-fat cooking methods like baking, boiling, steaming or grilling. Avoid deep-fried foods. Finally, ensure the safety and hygiene of the food you eat – do not eat foods that have been left exposed, raw or partially cooked foods, as well as soft cheeses like brie, camembert, ricotta, feta and mozzarella cheese.
Is weight loss advisable?
When some of my patients find out that they have gained too much weight during pregnancy, they always ask if it is alright to diet. The answer is a resounding ‘No’! It is never safe to diet or lose weight during pregnancy, as you and your baby will be deprived of nutrients. However, you can try to slow your weight gain by observing the healthy eating practices I have explained above.
Certain forms of physical activity can also be carried out to burn excess calories. While vigorous sports are not advisable, walking and swimming are generally safe exercises for pregnant women. Ask your doctor for advice before embarking on any exercise or physical activity. As you can see, weight gain during pregnancy is completely natural and necessary. But be sure to stay healthy throughout your pregnancy, so that you will not struggle with excess weight and complications later on.
Star newspape. Dec 10, 2008
By Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar