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What to Eat When You're Pregnant : A Healthy Weight Gain (part 2) - How much weight should you gain?

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How much weight should you gain?

The amount of weight you should gain during pregnancy depends on your weight before you became pregnant. Women who are overweight need to gain much less weight than those who are underweight, to produce a healthy baby. You can find out if your pre-pregnancy weight was appropriate for your height by calculating your body mass index (BMI).

Calculating your BMI

By working out your BMI, you can see whether you are a healthy weight for your height.

  1. Measure your height in metres. To convert from feet and inches, multiply your height in inches by 0.0254. For example, if you are 5 ft 2 in, this is 62 inches (12 inches to a foot), so the calculation is 62 × 0.0254 = 1.57 m.
  2. Measure your weight in kilograms. To convert from stones and pounds, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.454. For example, if you weigh 10 stone, this is 140 lb (14 lb to a stone), so the calculation is 140 × 0.454 = 63.6 kg.
  3. Divide your weight by your height squared. For example: image

For a simpler idea of whether you were the right weight for your height, use the graph opposite. First find your height up the side and then your weight along the top or bottom, depending on whether you work in kilograms or stones and pounds.

Once you know which weight category you belonged to before you became pregnant. The recommendations come from the Institute of Medicine in the USA and they have been calculated using data on weight gain and pregnancy outcome from thousands of women. Weight gains within the recommended ranges are associated with the lowest risk of complications during pregnancy and labour, and the best chances of having a healthy baby whose birth weight is within the normal healthy range. Weight retention after having the baby is also factored in, as well as the increased risk of childhood obesity among babies whose mothers put on a lot of weight during pregnancy.

image

Table

You might have read that you don’t need to gain any weight during the first trimester (three months) of pregnancy, but in reality most women do put on a bit. The average gain is about 0.5–2 kg (1–4 lb). If you are concerned about how much weight you’re putting on and want to monitor it, it may be easier to think about weekly weight gain, rather than the total amount. If you were in the underweight or normal weight category before pregnancy, then you should gain about 0.5 kg (1 lb) per week to achieve the recommended total gain in the table above. However, if you were overweight or obese before pregnancy, you should gain about 0.25 kg (0.5 lb) each week.

If you are concerned about your weight gain, it is important to talk to your midwife or GP. Remember that there is not an exact amount of weight that you should be putting on, and women with a range of different weight gains have good pregnancies and healthy babies.

Knowing what to eat to achieve a healthy weight gain isn’t always easy, and a growing number of pregnant women are struggling with weight issues. In 2010, NICE brought out new guidelines on the topic. Most of the recommendations are aimed at health professionals, but NICE also give some practical suggestions for pregnant women. These show what you can do to make it more likely that you will achieve a healthy weight gain:

  • eat breakfast;
  • watch portion sizes;
  • base meals on starchy foods such as potatoes and rice;
  • eat fibre-rich foods, such as oats, wholegrain products and vegetables;
  • make sure you get your five-a-day;
  • eat a low-fat diet;
  • avoid high-fat and high-sugar foods, such as fried food, fast food, fizzy drinks and cakes.

Twins and more!

If you are expecting twins, triplets or even more babies, you are likely to gain more weight than a woman expecting just one. This is due not only to the weight of an extra baby but also to an extra placenta and more amniotic fluid. You are quite likely to feel particularly hungry in early pregnancy and gain more weight in the first few months.

The Institute of Medicine in the USA has also calculated recommended weight gain ranges for women expecting twins. It describes these guidelines as ‘provisional’ as there is not as much data available about which weight gains are associated with the best pregnancy outcomes for twins. However, since there are no other recommendations available, you might find them useful. If you were underweight before you became pregnant, you might notice that there is no recommendation for you in the table below. This is because there was simply not enough data available for the Institute of Medicine to base one on. However, you can look at the recommended range for normal weight women, particularly the upper end of the range (as underweight women need to gain more), as a rough guide.

Table

There are no official guidelines regarding additional energy and calorie requirements for multiple pregnancies. However, extra calories are needed, and these should come from nutrient-rich foods. These will supply extra vitamins and minerals, including iron and vitamin A, which are more likely to be lacking in multiple pregnancies.

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