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Weight gain during pregnancy

by Alison Potter ,
Weight gain during pregnancy

When you're pregnant, you hear a lot of different things about weight gain. There's pressure to look lean and trim, with a neat little baby bump just like Kate Middleton, but in actual fact pregnancy weight gain varies from person to person.

Just as everyone has a different body shape, each person gains weight in various ways and in different areas. Just look at Kim Kardashian who's famous curves have become even more exaggerated as her pregnancy progresses.

Similarly Jessica Simpson and Frankie Sanford both changed in size, with the formally svelte Saturday's singer experiencing a complete change in body shape while expecting, but while it can be a bit scary when your body is out of your control, weight gain in pregnancy is completely normal.

Where and how you put the pounds on depends on your size and it's a natural and unavoidable part of being pregnant. However, to make sure your pregnancy weight gain is healthy there are a few things to keep in mind. We spoke to expert Nutritionist Vicky Pennington at Boots to find out more.

Eat well

That myth of 'eating for two' is just that, a myth. You’re not eating for two, but it is necessary to make sure you have a balanced and healthy diet so that your body has all the nutrients the baby needs to grow.

Listen to your body - your appetite will even out naturally according to the energy you need. If you didn't have good habits before falling pregnant, it’s essential to get some now.

Increase your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy produce in all forms, well-cooked meat, fish, whole grains and cereals. Avoid foods which are overly salty, have a high fat content and sugary foods with low nutritional value.

Vicky says: "Don't be too worried about gaining weight because it is not recommended to diet during pregnancy. I would focus on eating as healthily as you can and being as active as you can be. Give your diet a makeover with some healthy food swaps such as swapping butter or marg for low fat or no spread, French fries for oven chips or a jacket potato (with no butter - sorry!), try dried fruits instead of sweets or chocolate."

Calorie intake
The average woman needs to consume around 2,000 calories per day and this is also true for expecting mothers. But in the third trimester it's recommended to consume an extra 200 calories per day, which equates to a small meal or two healthy snacks - according to Vicky that's two slices of wholemeal toast with spread, or a jacket potato with a little cheese or baked beans, or a banana and a glass of fruit juice.

Recommended weight gain

Pregnancy doesn't follow an exact or predefined pattern and your doctor or midwife will monitor and estimate your own personal weight gain, but here's an idea of what to expect:

- 1st trimester

Weight gain is low, roughly 2.5-4lb. Some women even lose weight right at the beginning due to morning sickness and vomiting.

- 2nd trimester

There's an acceleration in weight gain during this period, most women gain 0.5-1lb a week. This is often when mums-to-be have cravings for certain foods and a strong dislike for other foods. Don’t deny yourself anything, but be careful not to snack too often and remember it's not a culinary free-for-all. It’s best to divide your meals into four or five little meals and not to overindulge your sweet tooth.

- 3rd trimester
You will still gain 0.5-1lb a week, but this is when your baby dramatically increases in size. During this trimester it will grow an incredible 350% to reach a healthy weight for birth.

Your overall weight gain will depend on your starting weight and BMI when you fall pregnant. Generally those in the healthy/normal weight range (BMI: 20-25) gain around two stone (25-35lb).

Those who are overweight (BMI: 25+) on average find they put on about a stone (15lb). While underweight women (BMI: 19 and under) can find themselves gaining up to three stone (40lb).

If you are put on more than expected, don’t be hard on yourself. Taking a balanced and flexible approach is far more important than religiously sticking to strict calorie guidelines.

However if you feel your pregnancy weight is spiralling out of control, it's important that you speak to your GP or midwife about the best course of action to take.

Distribution of weight

When pregnant, approximately one third of the weight you gain will be fat, which is vital because it provides key energy stores for breast-feeding. When you breast feed your body will naturally use these, providing a rich source of nutrition to your newborn.

Another third of your weight comprises of the baby, placenta and amniotic fluid - in actual fact giving birth is one of the only times when you could lose up to a stone in weight in a matter of hours!

The remaining mass is made up of extra body fluid, increased blood volume, increased breast weight and expansion of the uterus.

Control your cravings
Dreaming about chocolate? Allow yourself a treat occasionally, but keep in mind that the excess weight will be harder to lose after the birth - if that isn’t a good motivator then we don’t know what is!

For more informaton on diet during pregnancy, see our foods to avoid and healthy eating guidelines for mums-to-be.

Or if you want to talk to someone in person, try Boots UK Pregnancy and New Mum Support Service which is available nationwide for guidance on all manner of pregnancy questions.

Alison Potter
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