Letting Go of Pregnancy Weight Gain Fears

by Annie on November 6, 2010 · 4 comments

in Pregnancy and Baby,Weight Loss & Body Image,Women's Health

I have a relatively healthy relationship with food and my weight.  I am neither underweight nor overweight prior to getting pregnancy.  But when for some reason as I viewed my partially nude body when I was getting ready for bed last night, I started worrying about my weight gain during pregnancy.

I talk about exercise and eating healthy as an extension of being a healthy, vibrant person.  It is truly one of my guiding principles.  But what woman does not indulge in a little bit of vanity occasionally?  And with all the changes happening to my body, how can I not regard my pregnancy weight gain with a mix of fear, joy, and confusion.

Why is pregnancy weight gain confusing?

I am pretty sure you can understand the fear and joy part of gaining weight during pregnancy.  After all, years of trying to prevent weight gain from slowly creeping up is not going to disappear overnight.  I doubt that I am the only or last woman to worry about the amount weight you gain during pregnancy.  The weight gain fear swings both ways — gaining too much or gaining too little.  There is also joy in providing the nutrition my baby needs to grow in the womb.  This extreme emotional swing about weight gain could all be hormonal.  And don’t forget that I am also worry how excess weight gain would increase my hip pain.

The “appropriate amount of weight gain” during pregnancy is confusing to me.  The OB/GYN office is staffed by three women doctors.  When asked, all three of them gave me a different answer on how much weight I should gain during my pregnancy.  One doctor mentioned limiting my weight gain to no more than 15-20 pounds.  Another doctor thinks I should aim for 20-25 pounds.  And the last doctor thinks my body would gain whatever weight it wants to gain to have a healthy baby (I like this doctor the best).

Interestingly enough the advice the doctors gave reflect their individual body body shapes.  The “skinny doctor” wants me to gain as little weight as possible.  The “average doctor” wants me to gain a reasonable amount of weight.  And the “big boned doctor” (she was not overweight, just that her frame is more sturdy looking than the others) is okay with whatever weight my body wants to put on.

Are you as confused as I am?  Do doctors give out advice based on their own personal experience most of the time?

What do books and magazines have to say about pregnancy weight gain?

Being a bibliophile, I started digging through the shelves of my local library to see if there is another answer to this weight gain question.  Here is a breakdown of the average amount of weight gain during pregnancy:

Baby 7.5 pounds
Amniotic fluid 2 pounds
Placenta 1.5 pounds
Enlarge uterus 2 pounds
Enlarge breast 2 pounds
Increase blood volume 4 pounds
Increase water retention in tissue 4 pounds
Increase stored fat 7 pounds
Total pregnancy weight gain 30 pounds

Of course, the average woman in the United States is also taller and heavier than me.  So maybe the advice from the “average doctor” is the amount of weight my body should gain during pregnancy.  However, I think there are more factors at work in nurturing a healthy baby than just reaching some ideal weight requirement.  After all, what happens if you hit this “ideal pregnancy weight” before the end of the 40 weeks?  It is not like you can go on a diet during pregnancy.

Slow and steady weight gain during pregnancy

I’ve talked to plenty of women who gained 40+ pounds during pregnancy with healthy babies.  And a majority of them were able to lose  enough weight to be within 5 pounds of of their pre-pregnancy weight.  I’ve also talked to women who gained the recommended “ideal pregnancy weight” and ended up with complications at the birth.

As many of my regular readers know, slow and steady is the best way to lose weight.  This prevents sagging skin and helps you from re-gaining the weight loss.  This motto is also true for a healthy pregnancy.  When you slowly gain weight, it gives your body a chance to adapt to the extra pounds and allows your skin to stretch gradually (preventing stretch marks).

It is recommended that you gain 1-1.5 pounds a week after the 4th month.  Most women do not gain any weight by the 9th month because there is hardly any room in the womb for the baby to keep growing.

One thing I notice is that my weight gain happens when the baby is going through a growth spurt.  My weight would hold steady for a couple of weeks and I would eat the same amount of food I normally ate pre-pregnancy.  However, when the baby hits a growth spurt, I am ravenous which means eating every 2 hours.  And during that 1-2 weeks period, I would gain up to 3 pounds.  Then, the weight gain would slow down again.  But on average, I am gaining about 1 pound per week after my 14th week.

Pregnancy weight gain warning signs

If you start gaining more than 3 pounds a week after the 4th month and it is not due to excessive eating or water retention, then it could be a warning sign of gestational diabetes.  Being part of a high risk group for gestational diabetes (Asian descent), I have cause for some concern.  And if you were overweight pre-pregnancy, there is also a chance you would develop gestational diabetes during the last part of your pregnancy.

Pregnancy weight gain is complicated.  I just hope that I can keep a sense of humor about it even when I get comments from people that I look “too big to be (fill in the blank) weeks pregnant.”  Yes, I had a few of those already.  And the sad thing is, these rude comments all came from other women.  You would think with the massive amount of body image issues surrounding our culture, these women would know better than to make a pregnant woman worry about her weight.

Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.

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