Pregnancy Weight Gain & Related Studies
Knowing what to expect while pregnant and how to control pregnancy weight gain can help prevent complications and lead to a safe, healthy delivery for both mom and baby.
"Eating for two" tends to mislead women into overindulging during pregnancy which can lead to weight gain. Though weight gain is necessary during pregnancy to support the needs of growing baby, gaining the expected amount is just as important.
What's more, there are women whose weight gain during pregnancy is outside the recommended ranges may experience various adverse maternal outcomes. Numerous consequences of gestational weight gain for the mother include increased risk of pregnancy-associated hypertension, gestational diabetes, complications during labor and delivery, and postpartum weight retention and subsequent maternal obesity as well as an increased risk for unsuccessful breastfeeding.
In the postpartum period, too, weight retention can lead to higher weight status in subsequent pregnancies as well as weight retention and other long-term maternal health consequences such as increased risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Obesity and pregnancy also puts baby at risk for miscarriage, birth defects, and preterm delivery. There is also a greater risk of macrosomia, a condition in which the baby is larger than normal. This increases complications during pregnancy and the likelihood of being overweight later in life.
Knowing what to expect while pregnant and how to control pregnancy weight gain can help prevent such risks and lead to a safe, healthy delivery for both mom and baby.
Pregnancy Weight: What to Expect
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recent studies found that only about one-third of women gained the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy and most women gained weight outside the recommendations (in which 21 percent was too little and 48 percent too much).
Expected and recommended weight gain during pregnancy predominately breaks down into the following categories, which are based on body mass index (BMI) before pregnancy:
• Women with an average weight (BMI or 18.5 to 24.9) are recommended to gain 25 to 35 pounds
• Underweight women (less than 18.5) should gain between 28 to 40 pounds
• Overweight women (BMI 25 to 29) before pregnancy may only need to gain 15 to 25 pounds
• Obese women (BMI of 30 or greater) should gain about 11 to 20 pounds
There are also approximate recommendations if carrying twins, including the ranges based on the women's weight before getting pregnant:
• Women of an average weight should gain 37 to 54 pounds
• Overweight women should gain 31 to 50 pounds
• Obese women should gain 25 to 42 pounds
In addition to overall weight gain, there are more specific advices tailored to the three trimesters of pregnancy:
• First trimester: 1 to 4.5 pounds
• Second trimester: 1 to 2 pounds per week
• Third trimester: 1 to 2 pounds per week
Though weight gain is important, research shows pregnancy to be a vulnerable factor for some women to become overweight following delivery.
The SPAWN Study
The SPAWN (Stockholm Pregnancy and Women's Nutrition) study is a 15 year follow-up study of women who delivered children in 1984-85 in Stockholm, in which researchers aimed to examine weight gain and weight retention after pregnancy.
The sample of about 2,300 was divided into groups to examine three presumably critical time periods:
1. Overweight and normal weight before pregnancy
2. Low, intermediate, and high weight gainers during pregnancy
3. Low, intermediate, and high weight retainers at 1 year after pregnancy
Researchers discovered women who are overweight before pregnancy do not have a higher risk of postpartum weight retention than normal weight women. High weight gainers during pregnancy also retained more weight at the 1 and 15-year follow-ups, in which 56 percent of the high weight gainers during pregnancy ended up in the high weight retainers group.
This lead to the discussion that it is not necessarily the initially overweight woman who should be the target of weight control programs during or after pregnancy. Getting back into healthy habits as soon as possible is key to avoiding that lifelong burden started by a pregnancy gain.
Besides, in the postpartum period, weight retention can lead to higher weight status in subsequent pregnancies, weight retention, and other long-term maternal health consequences such as increased risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Weight Management During and After Pregnancy
Weight management should be coordinated with a healthcare professional to ensure the health of both mom and baby. However, there are comprehensive guidelines mom can take to fall within the recommended guidelines of appropriate weight gain.
How Many Calories Should I Eat?
As women experience numerous changes in just a few short month, equipping the body with the right calories and nutrients can help ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Though also dependent on physical activity and other factors, average women with a pre-pregnancy BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 should consuming the following:
• First trimester: 1,800 calories
• Second trimester: 2,200 calories
• Third trimester: 2,400 calories
These additional calories should be sourced from nutritionally-dense foods, including whole grains, fruits and veggies, lean and plant-based protein, milk and dairy products, and healthy fat sources.
A balanced, well-planned diet also helps ensure essential nutrients particularly important during pregnancy, including protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin D, folate, and iron.
Losing Weight After Pregnancy
Getting back into healthy habits as soon as possible is key to avoiding that lifelong burden started by a pregnancy gain.
But as weight loss is a shared goal amongst postpartum women, new moms often find it difficult to juggle and honor such goals.
However, there are simple tips to lose weight after pregnancy whilst building memories with the newest bundle of joy. Effective strategies include:
• Ditching the concept of dieting and incorporate a well-balanced nutrient-dense foods, while still allowing indulgences
• Keeping nutritious food and meals stocked by practicing meal prep or taking advantage of a meal delivery service
• Increasing water intake throughout the day and limiting sugary, high-calorie beverages
• Considering breastfeeding, which not only benefits growing baby, but may offer more diet leeway and accelerate weight loss efforts
• Staying active, including with quick workouts or mommy meet-up groups
• Taking power naps as needed to sustain energy levels and keep hunger levels in check
Ultimately, embracing a healthy lifestyle cannot only naturally lead to weight loss, but amplify energy to build lasting memories with loved ones for years to come!