What’s the right amount?
We all expect to gain weight during pregnancy – often more than we might like! We know that gaining weight is part of the process of being pregnant and means that our baby is growing as she or he should. But what is the right amount of weight to gain during pregnancy? How much is too little – or too much? And how many calories do we need to eat to get it right?
We take a look at what the experts recommend for weight gain during pregnancy and how to eat to put on the right amount and type of weight.
How much weight is the right amount?
The amount of weight that you need to gain depends on the weight you are at the start of your pregnancy. Someone who is underweight will need to gain more weight than someone who is at a healthy weight. Likewise, someone who is over weight will need to gain a little bit less than someone who is at a healthy weight. The amount of weight you gain depends on your body mass index. See the chart below:
Over the whole pregnancy
- Underweight BMI less than 18.5 Need to gain 28-40lbs or 12.5-18kg
- Normal Weight BMI 18.5-24.9 Need to gain 25-35lbs or 11.5-16.0kg
- Overweight BMI 25.0-29.9 Need to gain 15-25lbs or 7-11.5kg
- Obese BMI 30+ Need to gain 11-20lbs or 5-9kg
Eating to gain weight
A common question that women ask is how much extra food they need to eat during pregnancy to get to the right weight? The reality is that your body will be the best guide. Your own appetite will gradually increase over the course of your pregnancy. You will naturally find that you are a lot hungrier and eating larger portions than you were at the start. The general guidelines are that women do not need to eat any extra calories in first three months but they do need to eat an extra 350 in the second three months and an extra 500 in the last three months.
What are the best foods to choose?
It is not just extra calories that your body needs. Your growing baby needs more protein, more vitamins and a lot more calcium. When you are looking for those extra calories, try to get them from healthy snacks that are also nutritious. Low-fat milk and yoghurt will give you lots of calcium, oil-rich fish will give you protein and important omega-3s and fruit will give you lots of vitamin C. Some good foods and snacks to choose include:
- 125g pot of low-fat yoghurt 71 cal
- 200ml glass of low-fat milk 84 cal
- 1 small tin of salmon (70g) 105 cal
- 1 piece of fruit 95 cal
- 2 slices of wholemeal soda bread 70 cal
- 4 dessertspoons of dry cereal 134 cal
- 2 scrambled eggs 192 cal
Remember: You should never try to lose weight when you are pregnant – no matter how overweight you might be. If you do find yourself losing weight speak to your dietitian – your GP or Consultant will be able to arrange an appointment for you.
Pregnancy weight – Dos and Don’ts
Do eat a variety of foods from all of the food groups. This means that you will be getting all of the nutrients you and your baby needs.
Do choose wholegrain and high-fibre varieties. These help to fill you up but are usually slightly lower in calories. They are good sources of B vitamins antioxidants. Adding fibre will also help you to avoid the dreaded pregnancy constipation… Choose high-fibre cereals, wholegrain bread, brown rice and pasta and eat potatoes in their jackets.
Don’t be tempted to go for the quick bar of chocolate or packet of crisps when hunger strikes. The occasional treat is no harm but these foods can be much higher in calories which means you can over-shoot your weight. High-fat and high-sugar treats also tend to be low in other nutrients so try to make healthier choices as often as you can.
Do be prepared – you can feel hungry very suddenly when you are pregnant, especially in the last few months. Get into the habit of bringing some healthy snacks with you when you go out and keep the kitchen well-stocked. Yoghurts, fruit, unsalted nuts, dried fruit, cheese portions, wholegrain crackers and oat cakes are all handy, nutritious snacks.
Don’t force-feed yourself! Unless you have been advised to gain extra weight, don’t force yourself to eat. Go with your natural appetite, which will gradually increase over the months. You will notice that you are eating larger portions, looking for more snacks or even waking up in the middle of the night to eat. Just make sure you have lots of healthy food and snacks around so making the healthy choice is the easy choice
What if I am not gaining enough weight?
If you think that you are not gaining enough weight, speak to your GP or midwife to have your weight checked. They can refer you to a dietitian if necessary. Remember, it is normal not to gain much if any weight in the first three months but after this you should start to see some changes in your weight.
Some things to try in the meantime are:
Don’t skip meals – this can happen especially if you already have another young child or you are busy at work.
Make sure you are getting foods from all the food groups especially some starchy foods like bread and cereals as well as protein foods like meat, beans, fish, chicken and eggs.
Check if you are over-doing your exercise. 30 minutes five days a week is plenty.
Finally, do keep active. Women tend to be worried about gaining too much weight during pregnancy. One of the best ways to make sure you keep your weight gain at healthy levels is to stay active. Keep walking, swimming or taking part in any gentle-tomoderate exercise, but don’t overdo it. Keep in mind that about 30 minutes five times a week is a great level of exercise to aim for throughout your pregnancy.
If you are not sure about what is suitable or you are concerned about your weight speak to your midvwife or GP or talk to a qualified dietitian. Check out www.indi.ie for a list of qualified dietitians in your area.
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