You know that having a baby means adding on extra pounds – you need it for the developing baby and supporting the growth of your uterus, placenta, breasts and all the other changes to your body. Pregnancy is definitely not the time to reduce your diet, but how do you know how much weight gain is normal?
First, let’s look at where the weight that is gained goes on your body. And no, it’s not just in your tummy! By the end of pregnancy the weight gained is distributed among the following areas in your body:
- Baby approximately 3-3.5 kg (7-8.5 lbs)
- Placenta about 1-1.5 kg (2-2.5 lbs)
- Uterus and amniotic fluid about 1.3 kg (3 lbs)
- Breast tissue approximately .5-1.8 kg (1-4 lbs)
- Increase in the volume of blood 1.8-2.2 kg (4-5 lbs)
- Increase in circulating fluids approximately 1.3-2.2 kg (3-5 lbs)
- Fat stores (hips, back, upper thighs and arms) approximately 1.8-2.7 kg (4-6 lbs) which will be used when breastfeeding
No wonder you’re tired by the end of pregnancy – you might be carrying an extra 9 to 13 kg (25-30 lbs) every day! Some expectant moms may gain more and some will gain less than this, each pregnancy is different and it also depends on whether you were underweight or overweight when you became pregnant.
How much weight should you gain during pregnancy? Health Canada has released guidelines for weight gain based on the latest scientific literature to minimize any risks to both Mom and baby. Have a look at the Health Canada BMI Calculator.
The guidelines are based on an expectant mom’s body mass index before she enters pregnancy:
- For mothers with a BMI of 18.5 or less (underweight) the recommended gain is 12.5-18 kg (28-40 lbs)
- For mothers with a BMI of 18.5-24.9 (normal weight) the recommended gain is 11.5-16 kg (25-35 lbs)
- For mothers with a BMI of 25.0-29.9 (overweight) the recommended gain is 7-11.5 kg ( 15-25 lbs)
- For women with BMI over 30 (obese) the recommended gain is 5-9 kg (11-20 lbs)
If you are expecting more than one baby the recommendation is:
- Mothers of normal weight gain 17-25 kg (37-54 lbs)
- Mothers who are overweight gain 14-23 kg (31-50 lbs)
- Mother who are obese gain 11-19 kg (25-42 lbs) *
During the first three months weight gain is usually about 1-2 kg (2-4 lbs), during the second and third trimesters weight gain increases to usually .4 kg (1 lb) per week. Health Canada recommendations indicate the following rate of gaining:
- Underweight women gain about .5 kg (1lb) per week during the second and third trimesters
- Mothers of normal weight gain about .4 kg (1lb)
- Overweight mothers gain .3 kg (.6lbs)
- Obese mothers gain .2 kg (.5 lbs
Moms who are underweight during pregnancy may be at greater risk for pre-term birth and a low birth weight baby or a baby that does not gain well. Moms who are overweight may be at risk during their pregnancy for having high blood pressure, developing diabetes during their pregnancy, having a baby that is 4 kg (8.5 lbs), needing a cesarean, having problems with postpartum bleeding, and retaining more of their weight after the pregnancy.
Recent findings from Health Canada show that first-time mothers and young mothers are more likely to gain excess weight during pregnancy and may keep some of this weight even nine months after giving birth. There is some evidence that children born to mothers who gained high or excessive weight during pregnancy may overweight by the time they turn five.
What can you do during pregnancy regarding weight?
- Set a “weight gain” goal early in your pregnancy with your health care provider that is based on the Health Canada weight gain recommendations
- Although you are eating for two or more -choose healthy high nutrient choices such as fruits and vegetable; meats, grains and dairy products. See more on Prenatal Nutrition.
- Be physically active-whether it is walking, swimming, doing prenatal fitness or yoga-as long as your doctor says it is safe to do so. Learn more about Exercise During Pregnancy.
- Seek out nutritional and physical activity counseling if you have had or are experiencing challenges with weight.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle by avoiding substances such as alcohol, smoking, herbal products or street drugs. Find out about Smoking & Pregnancy.
Reference: Canadian Gestational Weight Gain Recommendations (2010) Health Canada, www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/prenatal/qa-gest-ros-qr-eng.php
If you're pregnant or thinking about having a baby, check out www.welcometoparenting.com. These interactive, online prenatal and parenting classes will provide information on pregnancy, labour and delivery, your relationship and a community of expectant and new parents just like you! Watch the overview video!
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