Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Expert Answers Crucial Questions

Many expecting mothers have concerns and questions regarding weight gain during pregnancy. Here, a nutritionist has answered some such questions.

Written by: Shubhangi Shah Updated at: 2021-08-17 11:08

As soon as you get to know you’re pregnant, there is a lot of emphasis on nutritional intake. From nachni ladoos to ample fruits and vegetables, those around you try to ensure optimal nutrition for you and your child. One concern that many pregnant women have is that of weight gain. Although with another human growing inside you, gaining weight is a normal aspect of pregnancy, how much you can is critical for your health and that of your baby. However, several questions loom: how much weight gain is normal, how much weight gain is ideal trimester-wise, what if your weight is below or above normal, etc.

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Below, Greata Sherene Robinson, Executive Nutritionist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Chennai, has answered such questions. But before that, it’s crucial to understand what BMI is, about which an expecting mother is told during the prenatal visits. Short for body mass index, BMI is a scale to know if you’ve normal body weight, or are you underweight, overweight or obese. It’s a simple mathematical concept, calculated using a person’s weight and height. You can go online and check your BMI by entering your height and weight.

Not that you’ve got familiar with the concept, here are some pregnancy weight gain-related questions answered:

What if one has a low or high weight gain during pregnancy?

Although there isn’t any magic number, a woman should gain 10 to 14 kilos during pregnancy to increase the likelihood of delivering a healthy baby. Less than that contributes to the chances of the baby having low weight at birth. In the mother, this results in failure to initiate breastfeeding.

If the weight gain is more than that, it increases the chances of c-section deliveries, postpartum weight gain and other pregnancy-related problems, such as gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension. It can also lead to larger for gestational age (LGA) baby, in which the child weighs more than the average weight gain. Another problem is macrosomia, in which the baby born is larger than the average of the same gestational age. The child will also be susceptible to obesity later in life.

What factors contribute to gestational weight gain?

The factors are: water, placenta, uterus, amniotic fluid, maternal blood volume, mammary gland, maternal adipose tissue and finally, the weight of the fetus. Among these, placenta, amniotic fluid and fetus’ weight contribute 35% to the weight gain.

Also read: Bleeding In Early Pregnancy Could be A Sign of Miscarriage, Fertility Specialist Explains Symptoms & Risks

How many calories should the expecting mother consume?

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1,500 calories and an additional 300 for the baby. This should be split into three main meals and 2-3 small meals. And as the pregnancy advances, the calorie intake also increases. It is 200 kcal/day in the first trimester, 300 kcal/day and 400 kcal/day in the second and third trimesters, respectively.

How much weight gain should there be, trimester-wise?

1st trimester: During the first three months, weight gain should be maintained to a minimum, 0.5 to 2 kg. However, during this some, some lose weight due to morning sickness and some gain due to cravings. Those in the former category should focus on proper nutrient intake and maintaining a balance. Consume protein-rich foods, along with healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and ensure proper water intake. Also start your day with a dry cereal, such as bread, nuts and ginger, to control vomiting. 

Those belonging to the latter category, watch out for your cravings, is it for junk or homemade food and try to consume everything in moderation. Remember, anything in excess can be detrimental to your brain and that of your child. If the weight gain in the first trimester is either less than 5 to 10% of the pre-pregnancy weight, or more than that, it’s time to consult a dietician.

2nd trimester: During this time, the baby grows rapidly, affecting the mother’s weight. However, ensure any weight gain is gradual, 0.2 to 0.5 kg/week. 

As the baby grows in size, so does your calorie intake. But make sure, your meals are balanced with the right amount of protein, healthy fat, iron, calcium and omega 3 fatty acids on your plate. 

You gain 4-5 kilos during this semester, but keep a check on your blood sugar level and blood pressure.

3rd trimester: The fetus gains the most weight during this time and the mother experiences heartburn and acidity. Avoid deep-fried and spicy foods during this time. Instead consume small, frequent meals of bland and easily digestible foods. Include adequate protein, antioxidants and fluids in your diet.

Weight gain of anything between 4 and 5 kilos is normal and excess weight gain can be a marker for edema, in which excess fluid build-up causes swelling in mostly legs, but other body parts as well. This, in turn, can cause preterm delivery or pre-eclampsia, which happens in case of high blood pressure, excess protein in the urine, low platelet count and signs of troubles in the kidney and /or liver. 

Also read: 7 Ways To Relieve Stress During Pregnancy

Key points

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Now that you’ve an overall idea of pregnancy-related weight gain, here are some takeaway points you should keep in mind:

  • There should be counselling in case of significant deviation from the weight gain/weight loss goals. 
  • For adequate maternity weight gain, nutritional intervention in each trimester can play a crucial part.
  • Eating twice as healthy doesn't mean doubling your portion size, which should be as per the specified calorie intake. Just have a well-balanced diet with all the macronutrients, vitamins and minerals on your plate.
  • Practice good dietary control and exercise regularly. Such lifestyle changes can do wonders for your health and that of your baby.
  • Tracking calories and weight can help you make right food choices. Try a varied diet and do away with empty calories.

Now that you’re aware of the various facets of pregnancy-related weight gain, pay utmost focus on nutrition. Also, it’s OK if the scales are going up, you can always shed it off. Remember, it took nine months to make a baby, it’ll take time and effort to drop those extra kilos.

(With inputs from Greata Sherene Robinson, Executive Nutritionist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Chennai)

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