Weight gain in pregnancy

Eating well during pregnancy is vital for optimal growth and development of your baby. However, the amount of weight you gain during pregnancy is equally as important. Excessive weight gain in pregnancy is becoming a huge problem, especially given that the rate of overweight and obese women in Australia is on the rise.

One of the most commonly asked questions is “how much weight should I gain during my pregnancy?” It is quite often assumed that you must “eat for two” in order for your baby to obtain all the vital nutrients. This is not the case as eating for two is a large overestimation of the additional calories needed, especially early in your pregnancy.

Weight gain is inevitable throughout your pregnancy given it is a time of baby growth and development. Your nutritional requirements will vary throughout the gestational period, depending on physiological body changes, fetal and placental development, as well as breastfeeding preparation. The highest calorie requirements occur from week 24 onwards when 90% of your baby’s growth occurs, increasing your nutritional demands significantly as your maternal basal metabolic rate rises by up to 60%.

How much weight should I gain?

The recommended weight gain during your pregnancy is guided by what your weight was prior to falling pregnant, using your Body Mass Index (or BMI) to calculate this for you. Once you have calculated your BMI the following table provides you with the recommended amount.

A general rule of a weight gain of around 11-16kg is considered appropriate for most healthy women. It is very important that you aim to follow these guidelines. At the bottom of this page there is a link to the Nestle Pregnancy Weight Gain Calculator, which will help tell you if your weight is on track during your pregnancy.

The reason weight is important is that it can have serious implications on the health of both you and your baby. Too little maternal weight gain can cause growth problems with your baby as well cause you to feel fatigued and develop nutrient deficiencies such as iron deficiency anaemia. Being overweight increases your risk of developing conditions such as Gestational Diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as complications during labour and delivery. If you gain too much weight it will also make it more difficult and longer for you to lose the ‘pregnancy belly’ and return to your pre-pregnancy weight after your baby is born.

What are the calorie requirements per trimester?

The calorie requirements as mentioned earlier do change throughout the gestation, depending on the specific section and what it is characterized by. Recommendations state:

  • 1st trimester = No extra calories. This is because little or no weight is put on during these first 14weeks
  • 2nd trimester = 340kcal/day (or 1421kJ/day)
  • 3rd trimester = 450kcal/day (or 1881kJ/day)

As you can see pregnancy is not at all about ‘eating for two’ and you are required to only eat a smidgen more of calories then when not pregnant.

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