What You Can Do to Keep Your Weight Gain on Track during Pregnancy

Along with the many joys that accompany the anticipation of new life, expectant mothers may struggle with various questions surrounding weight gain. What can I do to prevent gaining too much weight and having a lot to lose once my baby is born? Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?

Concerns about weight gain can be anxiety-provoking without the right information. In this article, including how fast weight should be gained and suggestions for exercise during pregnancy, as well as other strategies to keep your weight on track during pregnancy. In today’s society, weight gain generally carries a negative connotation. However, how we conceptualize weight gain and the meaning we attach to it can transform the experience from one of dread to one of beauty. Weight gain during pregnancy is not an ordinary weight gain.

It is a necessity to create life, and we shouldn’t forget that. It is necessary to support the proper development of your child’s body and the storage of resources needed for lactation. When thought of in this way, the increasing numbers on the scale can be viewed as both necessary and even positive (within reason, of course). This last qualifier is an important one, which is why I start this article discussing in depth what “within reason” actually means: I’ve chosen to focus on weight gain during the second and third trimesters because although it is common to gain some weight in the first trimester (about 1 to 4½ pounds), most weight gain occurs during the later stages of pregnancy.

Weight Gain Guidelines for the Second
Trimester

The second trimester is when your weight should start increasing at a much faster pace due to more rapid fetal growth, accumulating maternal stores, and an improved appetite.


In the second trimester specifically, studies show direct links between too little weight gain and having a “small for gestational age” baby, as well as too much gestational weight gain and having a “large for gestational age” baby.

Also, it appears that the timing of excessive weight gain during pregnancy can be important. Research shows that excess weight gain in the first half of pregnancy (up to 20 weeks) increases the amount of a baby’s adipose tissue (fat) at birth, thus increasing the child’s risk for obesity later in life.

Therefore, gaining the recommended amount of weight and at an optimal rate is key for a healthy baby. Remember, you are supposed to eat only an extra 340 calories each day during the second trimester, and that doesn’t amount to a lot of extra food each day. In terms of weight gain, as you may recall from chapter 2, how much weight you are advised to gain in total will vary depending on your prepregnancy BMI. You can see in the Weight Gain throughout Pregnancy by BMI chart that the rate of weight gain over the second trimester may also vary depending on your prepregnancy BMI.

Further, if you gained more than a few pounds in your first trimester, you may not gain at quite the same rate as you would if you didn’t gain any weight during the first trimester. If your pre-pregnancy BMI was normal, you should plan to gain roughly 1 pound per week during the second trimester.

Weight Gain Guidelines for the Third
Trimester

Unlike the second trimester, starting at around week 34 (gestation week 36), about half of the weight that you gain will be going directly to your baby. That is, for every pound that you gain, your baby will be gaining about half of it. Also, more than half (about 70 percent) of all the energy that goes to your baby is going to its rapidly growing and developing brain.

So how much should you be gaining during the third trimester? Remember, during the third trimester you are supposed to eat only an extra 450 calories each day (here’s how little that can be: 1½ cups of whole milk and ve Oreo cookies is around 450 calories). You can see from the chart above that the rate of weight gain over the third trimester may also vary depending on your prepregnancy BMI.

If your pre-pregnancy BMI was normal, you should plan to gain roughly 1 pound per week during the third trimester (as you did in the second trimester, as well)

Several studies support the need to try and stay on track with your weight gain goals during the middle-to-latter part of your pregnancy. Excess weight gain during the second and third trimesters (regardless of BMI), has been associated with an increased chance of having a large for gestational age baby and a Csection delivery, among other risks. Both small and large for gestational age babies have an increased risk of being obese as children as well as later in life—another reason it is important to try and gain weight within the recommended guidelines for your BMI. It is also worth mentioning a recent study that found that increased gestational weight gain during the third trimester was associated with greater body weight of babies at 6 months old.

Weight Gain Chart

During one of your prenatal visits, your doctor may have given you a gestational weight gain chart to track your pregnancy weight. In case you don’t have a chart yet, one is included here.

This chart has four lines, one for each possible category of prepregnancy BMI (underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obese), and you need to pay attention to only the one that corresponds to your own prepregnancy BMI. You can see that at 12 weeks, the line rises steadily without plateaus until delivery, indicating the need for steady weight gain over this time frame.

Are you falling below or above the line?

Can use this chart to track your weight gain as you go, marking your weight on the graph at each week and comparing it to the “recommendation line” appropriate for your BMI category. Are you falling below or above the line? Don’t stress out if you’re a couple of pounds short or a couple of pounds over what the line recommends. If you gained 2 pounds in one week, you may gain none or less than 1 pound in the following week, and things will eventually even out. Also, the Institute of Medicine expresses gestational weight gain recommendations as ranges instead of specific numbers.

Gaining 5 pounds more or less at the end of pregnancy (the line for the normal BMI category ends at 30 pounds, but weight gain anywhere from 25 to 35 is considered optimal), as long as it falls within the recommended range, is not thought to contribute to negative outcomes. However, if you nd that you’re “o the chart” and it’s only the beginning of the second trimester, or if the pounds appear to be piling on by the days instead of by the weeks, you should speak to your doctor; there may be an underlying issue causing rapid weight gain, such as uid accumulation. Next, evaluate your dietary and exercise habits.

Are you consuming a balanced diet? Or do you nd yourself overindulging whenever a craving strikes? Are you getting enough physical activity?Drinking plenty of water? All of these factors can lead to a more rapid
than recommended weight gain.

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