Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help your baby get the nutrients he or she needs and grow at a healthy rate. But how many extra calories does your body really need?
Unlike what many well-wishing friends and relatives may tell you, it’s hardly necessary to ‘eat for two’. In fact, you don’t even need to gain weight in your first trimester. Due to morning sickness, you may start gaining weight a bit later, and it’s completely normal. According to the IOM, the average pregnant woman only needs only 300-340 extra calories a day in her second trimester, and 450 extra calories daily in her third trimester. This will help her gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy.
So how much weight should you gain? A woman who was average weight before pregnancy should gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. An underweight woman should gain 28 to 40 pounds, and an overweight woman may need to gain only 15 to 25 pounds. If you are expecting twins you should gain 35 to 45 pounds during your pregnancy. It’s especially important to gain the right amount of weight when you’re expecting twins because your weight affects theirs. And because twins are often born before the due date, a higher birth weight is important for their health. If you’re pregnant with twins, you may need between 3,000 and 3,500 calories a day, and should gain 37 to 54 pounds if you started at a healthy weight, 31 to 50 pounds if you were overweight, and 25 to 42 pounds if you were obese.
However, according to research, at least half of women are gaining more or less than they “should”. Most underweight women will gain within the guidelines but some women of healthy weight may exceed the advised amounts and a majority of overweight or obese women will likely gain too much.
Overweight and Pregnant
If you gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy, your baby may be too large at birth, which can cause labor complications, such as a higher risk for having a caesarean delivery or a premature birth. You might also retain too much weight after pregnancy and have a higher weight in your future pregnancies.
The risks for women who gain too much weight during pregnancy, though, are less than the risks for women who are already overweight when they conceive. Women who start pregnancy overweight are at higher risk for complications, including preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.
In addition, women who are overweight or obese before pregnancy tend to have trouble breastfeeding, and children whose mothers who start pregnancy overweight are more likely to become overweight themselves.
Diet During Pregnancy
If a woman is severely obese when she gets pregnant, her doctor may want her to lose weight. Such women should only lose weight under medical care. But in most cases, you should not diet during pregnancy and better wait until after delivery to start losing weight.
Whether or not you’ve struggled with your weight in the past, it may be difficult accepting that you’re actually supposed to gain weight now. It’s normal to feel slightly worried, but remember, that some weight gain is important for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, and that you’ll shed those extra pounds after delivery. Eat a healthy diet while you’re pregnant and ask your doctor or trainer to help you set up an exercise program that suits you.
Losing Weight After Birth
Much of your extra weight will be gone soon after you deliver your baby. Women usually lose half of their pregnancy weight gain in the first six weeks after giving birth. The baby accounts for about 7.5 pounds and the amniotic fluid, placenta, and extra body fluids and blood add up to another 8 to 12 pounds as follows:
- Amniotic fluid: 2-3 pounds
- Placenta: 2-3 pounds
- Breast tissue: 2-3 pounds
- Stored fat for delivery and breastfeeding: 5-9 pounds
- Larger uterus: 2-5 pounds
- Blood supply: 4 pounds
- Total: 25-35 pounds
Don’t start cutting back on calories right after delivery, though. Beyond that, remember that if it took nine months to put on the weight, it can take just as long for it to come off. Besides, being the mother of a newborn requires lots of energy – for breastfeeding, for example – and that means giving your body all the nutrients it needs. Be patient and give your body a chance to do its work, and you may be surprised at how much weight you lose naturally, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
If you still have trouble losing weight, consider consulting a dietitian and start training regularly to help you lose weight – but not too much or too fast.