I was pretty thin when I first became pregnant. I was a vegan and weighed 125lbs. A few months into my pregnancy my hormones made feel a bit crazy about food, and I lost my “filter.” While I tried to still eat lots of healthy foods, I also ate lots of not so healthy foods too.
I ended up gained nearly 80lbs in that 9 month period!
So what is healthy weight gain during pregnancy?
Although weight gain recommendations during pregnancy have varied from year to year, the current weight gain recommended for pregnant women is 25-30 pounds. This number is based on how much your body needs to gain for a healthy pregnancy and baby and is split up into several categories.
(*Before this post goes on too much further, don’t think of this as a How to avoid gaining weight during pregnancy post. It’s more of a How to keep healthy and protect your body post. We DO NOT want any malnourished babies or mamas! Just wanted to clarify that here and now.)
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Table of Contents
Typical Weight Distribution During Pregnancy
- Babies weight at birth: 7.5 pounds
- Placenta: 2 pounds
- Uterus: 2 pounds
- Amniotic fluid: 2 pounds
- Extra blood volume: 2.5 pounds
- Extra body fluid: 2.5 pounds
- Breasts Tissue: 2 pounds
- Fat storage gain for breastfeeding: 8 pounds
Of course, every pregnancy is different and the recommended weight gain depends on your starting weight and other factors such as carrying more than one baby. It’s best to talk to your doctor about how much weight is healthy for you to gain.
Shouldn’t I Listen To My Body?
I’m sort of a naturalist when it comes to listening to our bodies. All those cravings you get when pregnant are messages to your body to increase your nutrients for your growing baby. But, the problem is we often don’t eat the way nature intended. With so many processed and convenience foods at our constant fingertips, its easier than ever to overdo it.
If you were satisfying those cravings with extra apples or carrot sticks, that would be fine! However, reaching for your third Twinkie isn’t the same thing, and this is what leads to that excess weight gain.
Reasons Not To Gain Too Much Weight
If your pregnant, it can be tempting to not worry about weight gain at all. After all, your eating for two, and if you can gain weight without the extra worry now, when can you?
No! Don’t do this. I say from experience. Not because of any vanity metrics either. All that excess weight gain gave me long-term issues to deal with, and I’m not talking about permanent weight gain either. I lost the weight very quickly after birth. In fact, I lost all 80 lbs within 6 weeks.
Instead, the excess weight gain caused me to have other issues. I really think I would have had an easier labor had I gained less weight. I also ended up with a very large gap in my abdominal muscles called diastasis recti, which I am still trying to heal years later. I also have a lot of excess skin and stretch marks on my belly from gaining so much weight so fast.
None of this is to scare you of course, that is not my goal here. I simply warn that gaining too much weight during pregnancy can cause you real problems, that aren’t solved by weight loss after baby is born.
Recommended Calories in Pregnancy
For the first and second trimester (up to 28 weeks), you don’t need to eat any more calories than you normally would. For an average woman, this means eating about 2,000 calories per day. I don’t recommend counting calories if you aren’t already doing so, just be mindful of your eating habits.
A lot of women make the mistake of gaining too much weight in the beginning of the pregnancy (like me) when the baby actually weighs very little. For a frame of reference, a baby at 20 weeks gestation weighs only about 10 ounces. That’s less than a pound.
At the beginning of your third trimester (28 weeks) the average fetal weight is only 2.2 pounds.
Once you reach your third trimester, it is recommended that you eat only 200 extra calories per day or about 2,200 calories per day. This is an estimate, as there are a variety of factors that come into play, such as your starting weight and body mass index, metabolism and your level of physical activity. So always check with your doctor that you are gaining enough weight!
If your curious what your body mass index (BMI) is, you can use the following formula:
Take your weight in pounds and divide it by your height squared, then multiply this by 703. Or you can use the calculator below:
Supplied by BMI Calculator US
The body mass index can be interpreted as follows:
- Underweight: the BMI is 19 or less.
- Normal weight: the BMI is more than 19 but less than 25.
- Overweight: the BMI is 25 to 30.
- Obese: the BMI is greater than 30.
If you are underweight, overweight, or obese, your OB/GYN may make different recommendations as to how much weight you should gain during the pregnancy. Your BMI can also be affected by the amount of muscle you have.
Now for the good stuff!
How To Avoid Gaining Too Much Weight During Pregnancy
Here are some tips to keep in mind when eating while pregnant:
♥ It’s actually hard to gain excessive weight if you are eating high-quality foods. This is the good news. If you are eating high quality, real foods, it’s hard to gain “too much.” You want a good balance of protein, fats and healthy carbs (Like fruits and veggies!)
♥ You’re not actually eating for two. Especially in the first and second trimester. Try not to eat too much differently from before you got pregnant (although if you plan on eating healthier, nows a great time to start) unless you are underweight or overweight. In such cases, your doctor may ask you to eat more or less than normal in order to normalize your weight.
♥ Stick to a healthy diet rich in whole foods, veggies, whole grains and lean meats.Try to focus on extra fruits and veggies as they are particularly high in nutrients without giving you empty calories.
♥ Weigh yourself weekly during pregnancy. It’s a good idea to keep track just to make sure you are staying where you should be. If you have a sudden weight gain, you can try to figure out what the cause may be, and how to prevent from blowing your whole plan
♥ Avoid the high-calorie cravings. This one may be hard! I went from 100% vegan, to craving Jack in The Box’s jalapeno poppers and fried chicken sandwiches all-the-time. Seriously, I woke up every single morning feeling like I “needed” those tasty fried morsals to “survive.” The struggle was real (and the cravings won a lot of the time.)
♥ Stay active during pregnancy. Find your favorite pregnancy safe fitness activities and make a commitment to do something daily!
♥ Avoid eating out too much. It’s just too easy to overdo it when eating out. Eating at restaurants often comes with eating a large number of calories, partly due to large portion sizes. Always ask for a take-home box and eat only about half the entrée, packing up the rest for a tasty leftover lunch!
♥ Take a great prenatal. A great prenatal is incredibly important to the health of you and your baby. Without the right nutrients, you run the risk of your baby having long-term problems like Spina Bifida or other health issues. I love this brand of prenatals. They are a bit pricey, but they are very high quality. No fillers, and made with real ingredients so that your body actually absorbs them. Also, take DHA to help your baby’s brain grow and prevent postpartum depression! I recommend this brand, as they ensure the fish they use are low in mercury.
When in doubt about what to eat, ask your doctor or midwife to refer you to see a qualified nutritionist or a dietician who can map out a diet plan for you to follow while you are pregnant.
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