First, the ‘two red lines’ announcing conception. Then the unwanted feelings of nausea and morning sickness in a good number of pregnant women. Soon the waistline gets snug on most of your favourite dresses and finally, you don’t just need a new set of clothing, but also shoes, and possibly a temporary wedding band, no thanks to the all-round increase pregnancy brings.
So, where does the extra weight come from in pregnancy, and is there a way to manage it?
First, the pregnant months are the time in which weight gain is expected in a woman. Beyond welcome, anything contrary to that, especially weight loss, is a major source of concern, as should be. A pregnant woman is bearing not just her normal body weight, but also the increased weight pregnancy brings to her body, and then another human who sometimes grows to as much as 4kg and above.
As a result, there must be physical expression to all the increase. So, on a general note, what body parts and organs are directly implicated in the increase where a singleton foetus is involved?
First, there is the placenta and amniotic fluid. The placenta which develops in your uterus (womb) during pregnancy is responsible for the transportation of oxygen and other nutrients between a mother and her baby. It also helps remove waste products from the baby’s blood. The amniotic fluid, which is found inside a sack, on the other hand, forms a protective cover for the baby inside the uterus. Both contribute between 3 to 4 pounds of weight in the mother.
The uterus, which stretches continually as the baby grows can add an extra 2 pounds to the mother’s body weight. Blood volume and other maternal fluids also increase in pregnancy and contribute about 3 – 5 pounds. The breasts, as they prepare to provide food and nourishment to the baby, increase in size by about 1 pound.
The body fat composition also has to increase and can be responsible for up to an 8-pound increase or more. Finally, the baby itself. An average baby can grow to anything between 7 to 8 pounds, or more. What the above loosely adds up to is about 25 pounds and it is usually more as figures above are conservative. In kilograms, which we are more familiar with in this part of the world, that would be about 12kg.
Ideally, any increase up to 12 to 15kg or 25 to 35 pounds is normal in a singleton pregnancy.
However, a good number of women gain as much as 40kg in their pregnancies and that is where the ‘more’ in fat above comes to play. Your body optimally needs 12 to 15kg to help nurture its pregnant state, but excess weight gain can be the direct result of the woman eating more than she should, presumably ‘eating for two’ and/or giving in to cravings, and so all that extra food is stored in her fat cells and often times, in the baby so she births a macrosomic baby, that is a baby more than 4kg. For some women, however, the extra weight gained is a direct result of drugs, hormonal imbalances, or prolonged periods of inactivity as a result of bedrest or illness.
Sadly, this weight gain can be implicated in negative health conditions that may affect the mom’s quality of life during pregnancy, and even the labour and delivery process, so it should be avoided where possible, or managed well were impossible to avoid.
Watching food portions and feeding frequency is vital in pregnancy. A pregnant woman does not need to eat for two; she needs to eat for one and a quarter if we must quantify and that only in the second half of the pregnancy. Also, when it comes to feeding frequency, even if she has to eat more often than normal, to maybe control nausea or heartburn, for example, eating small meals is advised as opposed to larger meals. Food quality should also be checked as some foods help promote bloating and this will most likely be visible on the scales, your clothes, your extremities including your face.
Exercising as a lifestyle in pregnancy is also encouraged so long as the woman has her Doctor’s blessings. Beyond helping to manage the weight, it also helps fluid redistribution around the body and so fights bloating. Drinking lots of water also helps.
While weight gain is inevitable in pregnancy, the weight gain can be managed and maintained within the recommended figures.