In earlier times, if you were pregnant, it meant gaining weight and ‘eating for two’.
Nowadays however, there is an increasing awareness among women about the weight they gain during pregnancy and most importantly, how to lose all of it post delivery.
Weight gain during pregnancy depends on how much you weighed before pregnancy, your age, your appetite, the body’s metabolism and whether you are carrying twins /multiples.
There is increasing evidence that the risk of encountering problems during pregnancy and delivery is the lowest, when weight gain is in the healthy range. Obesity during pregnancy could result in gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension (high blood pressure), Cesarean birth, baby with birth defects and sometimes even fetal death. So it is best to put on only what is necessary.
Know your Body Mass Index (BMI)
The BMI or the relationship between your height and weight has a lot to do with monitoring pregnancy weight gain. If you’ve had a healthy Body Mass Index before pregnancy - that is between 18.5 to 24.9, you should gain not more than 10 kgs to 12 kgs through your entire pregnancy. The weight gain should be 12 to 15 kgs if your BMI has been below 18, 7 to 10 kgs if BMI is between 25 to 29.9 and 5-9kgs if you were obese.
The weight gain requirements are different for women carrying multiples.
Where Does all the Weight Gain come From
Here’s a breakdown based on a weight gain of 10 to 12 kgs during pregnancy:
- 3.4 to 3.8 kg fetus
- 3.4 kg storing fat and protein
- 1.8 kg blood
- 1.2 kg tissue fluids
- 0.90 gm uterus
- 0.81 gm amniotic fluid
- 0.68 gm placenta and umbilical cord
- 0.45 gm breasts
From the above, it is evident that a lot of the weight will be instantly lost while giving birth including the weight of the baby, amniotic fluid, the placenta and umbilical cord.
Gaining the right amount of weight
If you gain a healthy weight through pregnancy, then shedding those baby pounds post delivery will be much easier. Here’s what you need to take note of:
- Check your BMI and stick to the appropriate weight gain as per your BMI
- The key to a healthy pregnancy depends on nutrition and exercise. If you are overweight or obese, do consult a Nutritionist for a good diet chart to avoid excessive weight gain.
- We are aware that being pregnant no longer means eating for two. In the first trimester, you don’t even need to eat extra.
- From the second trimester, you need 340 calories extra each day that can be 1 bowl of salad OR One extra roti with sabji OR 1 small bowl dal and rice OR 1 sandwich OR a medium piece of chicken.
- For the third trimester, the recommendation is 450 calories extra a day.
- Avoid extra calories by cutting down on foods high in fat and added sugars. Replace fizzy drinks, sweets and fried foods with healthy options including low-fat milk and yogurt, whole fruit and whole grains.
Physical Activity: Exercising during pregnancy has immense benefits, including optimal rate of weight gain, prevention of gestational diabetes, reduced levels of stress and easier labor. The activity guidelines for pregnant women are 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most, if not all, at least three days of the week.
Most women decrease exercising during pregnancy, so it is important to consider any change in calories burnt due to a different exercise plan. You should always consult your physician before beginning an exercise regimen while pregnant.
Supplements: In addition to increasing calorie intake during pregnancy, there are a number of other key nutrients that you need to consume during pregnancy.
Protein: Protein intake increases by 25 gms/day during pregnancy in order to support the growth of maternal and fetal tissues. This requirement can be reached by consuming three 1 cup servings of milk / yogurt / cottage cheese /dal / 2 eggs per day which will also provide additional calories and calcium.
Folic acid: One of the most important vitamins to consume during pregnancy is folic acid. Folic acid intake is critical during the first month of pregnancy for preventing neural tube defects in the foetus. In fact, it is now recommended that you should increase your intake of Folic Acid if you are of childbearing age or are planning to conceive, so that the developmental needs are taken care of even in case of an unplanned pregnancy.
Iron: During pregnancy, your body makes additional blood to carry nutrients to the developing baby. To help make new blood cells, iron requirements also increase. Your doctor may recommend iron supplements. They are generally absorbed better when consumed with foods high in vitamin C. In addition to folic acid and iron, your body will need slightly increased amounts of most vitamins and minerals which can be met through increased caloric intake or with a prenatal vitamin.
Postnatal Weight loss
- It is strongly recommended that a mother should breastfeed as it aids in weight loss in the mother and it is healthy for the baby. A lactating mother burns approximately 450-500 calories a day (that’s about an hour's workout at the gym) and the recommended calorie intake while breastfeeding is only 330 calories greater than a woman who is not lactating. This means that the extra 100-150 calories your body needs to produce milk comes from your fat stores, helping you lose weight.
- Mothers are encouraged to begin exercising after 4 weeks in case of a normal delivery and 6 weeks post a cesarean birth (although it is important to note - avoid strenuous exercise as it can impair the mother’s ability to produce milk, if she is breastfeeding).
- For women who choose not to breastfeed, remember that prior to delivery you were consuming an additional 450 calories in your last trimester. If you continue to eat those extra calories, you will continue to gain weight.
Do remember that healthy weight loss occurs at a slow rate with a combination of exercise and well-balanced eating. Keep healthy!
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