The concept of weight gain in pregnancy has certainly taken lots of twists and turns. It has been subjected to a lot of debates as well. But what surprises most of us is the approach and attitude towards weight gain in pregnancy. In my experience, I have seen a handful of pregnant women who have gained negligible weight but had babies of normal birth weight. They were also successful in breastfeeding their babies for at least a year.
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On the other hand, I have also encountered the other segment of expectant women who had gained “enormous” weight to the tune of 25 to 28 Kgs in three trimesters with their babies weighing just 2 and 2.5 Kgs. The main cause of weight gain for many women could be due to retention or accumulation of water in extremities. Water retention is common, as long as there is no co-morbid condition such as hypertension associated with it. Definitely, weight gain forms an important aspect in the Obstetrician’s check list during your visits.
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What I want to say to pregnant women is: Never compare anything – the predominant “baby bump”, your weight gain, the discomforts that you may experience through pregnancy, and the way you look and so on. ‘Weight gain’, in general, is a very tricky subject, leave alone pregnancy-related weight matters. According to evidence-based medical research, weight gain is warranted in pregnancy and is a good sign of progress. For those who are unsure of how much weight can you safely gain, the table below should give you an idea on the scales of anticipated weight gain.
BMI CATEGORY WEIGHT GAIN
18 – 23 Normal 11 – 16 Kgs
< 18 Underweight 12 – 18 Kgs
24 – 29.9 Overweight 7– 10 Kgs
>30 Obese 5 – 9 Kgs
Twins - 15 – 20 Kgs
Before I move to the next step, let me tell you that my idea in presenting these numbers is certainly not with the intention of fixating you on scales. This is to give you a basic yardstick. Your Obstetrician is there to guide you and monitor if your weight gain is above safe limits or not.
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A weight gain of 500 to 750 grams in a week is medically accepted and well appreciated too. The increase in weight is a direct contribution from a wholesome, balanced diet that includes food from all the five food groups:
• Carbs and Cereals – 60% to 65% of 3 major meals from energy giving foods
• Protein in the form of Dals, Legumes, Lentils, Sprouts, non- vegetarian food – 20% to 25 % of the daily calories
• Milk and milk products: 2 to 3 servings/day
• Fats and Oils – 5 to 8 tsp per day – inclusive of Saturated fats such as Butter/Ghee, Polyunsaturated Fats such as Sunflower, Safflower, Rice Bran, Soya bean Oils. Those who can take coconut Oil can include it too as a source of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’S) which are important for the body during Pregnancy.
• Regular consumption of a small fistful of assorted dry fruits and tree nuts such as Almonds, Walnuts, Pistachios, Apricots etc., can also be included for healthy weight gain.
Equally spaced meals with nutrient rather than calorie-dense snacks between meals are one of the potential ways to keep weight gain under control. Inclusion of adequate amount of water and liquids such as buttermilk, soups, vegetable broths etc. will also help in the betterment of digestion, flushing out toxins, preventing Urinary Tract Infections etc., and keep you satiated as well!
Many times, the body and mind get confused between hunger and thirst, so hydrate well at all times.
In case your Obstetrician has an “extra” concern on weight and if you happen to be gaining more than what you should, just ensure that you:
• take salads & non-sugary fruits as snacks
• cut down on fried and salty foods
• are well-hydrated
• are regular in your walking and other exercises as recommended
• are getting enough Vitamin D through some direct sunshine
• are not stressed
• are disciplined in your portion sizes and timing of meals
Last but not least, you may mentally determine to gain a healthy weight; but don’t get obsessed with it.
“You are what you eat”.