Some may call it pressure, but we could also see it a welcome consciousness. The average pregnant woman is concerned about her weight gain and starts making her ‘bounce-back’ plans even right from the first trimester. However, a good knowledge of how much weight gain is expected, and how it is distributed in a pregnant woman’s body will provide a solid foundation for making those plans a reality.
‘You have added weight’ is not a phrase that a lot of women are happy to hear, but in pregnancy, weight gain is expected and even welcome. Which is why at every antenatal visit, the mum-to-be’s weight is taken and monitored, and any discrepancies looked into. But while it is expected, it should also be gradual. The shock on my ObGyn’s face is something I still recall when in a space of two months, I had added about 10kgs all in my second trimester. I didn’t know why he was shocked though. Was he unaware that in this part of our world an increasingly rounding hip as pregnancy progresses is a very good sign, as taught by our mothers? You after all need those hips to carry good and push well. I lost no time in educating him, but it turned out that I was the one who needed one.
So how much weight gain is ideal, and how is it distributed in a pregnant woman’s body?
In a single pregnancy, the woman is expected to gain about 10 to 15kg by the end of her 40weeks gestation, with about half of that occurring in the third trimester. The first trimester, (Weeks 1 to 12) is a period of intense development, where all the organs and systems of the fetus are being formed. However, fetal size remains as small as a tadpole, so besides some snugness in waist line expected at the end of that trimester, the mother’s weight should stay the same or rise by a maximum of 1 to 2 pounds, which is under 1kg.
In fact, a good number of women lose weight in this trimester as a result of morning sickness, and its attendant nausea and vomiting, yet fetal development is not usually affected by that. If you want to conceal your pregnancy for a while, you should have no trouble doing that in the first 12 weeks or 3months, except morning sickness gives you away.
By weeks 13 to 26 which is the second trimester, fetal development starts to give way to growth, especially from weeks 20, and the pregnancy starts to ‘show’. The end of this trimester sees an extra 11lbs/5kg to 14lbs/7kg gained by the mom. And in the third trimester, all we have going on is fetal growth so weight gain can be as much as 0.5kg weekly for women taking conscious steps to control it. It could be as high as 1kg or more weekly where no steps are being taken.
So where exactly do the extra pounds find their way to in the body?
For starters, that baby could be anything from 3 to 4kg by term. The breasts, which increase as they prepare to nurse, provide an extra 0.5kg. Blood volume also increases, contributing another 1 to 1.5kg, while muscle tissues and fluids provide an extra 1.8 to 3kg. The stretching uterus (womb) gives about 1kg or less, and the placenta and amniotic fluid contribute another 1.5 – 2kg. Finally, body fat, very welcome in pregnancy, ideally should increase by 2 – 3.5kg
Every figure presented above is expected for a healthy pregnancy and this brings the total weight gain to 10-15kg/25-35lbs by term. A healthy diet and active lifestyle would help moms to be stay safely within this range and make bouncing back post-delivery a lot easier. This is because with birth, most of these leave the woman’s body gradually – the baby, amniotic fluid or ‘water’, blood, and placenta – causing a drop of as much as 5 to 6kg or more in the first few days. This explains why some women lose a lot of the pregnancy weight fast and without even trying. It is not always ‘good genes’ that makes a woman bounce back fast. Sometimes, it is just ‘good discipline’ that helps.
However, if weight gain is more than the stipulated above, and there are no medical conditions indicated, a good percentage of it is fat going to the mother and the baby, which is why doctors expect weight gain to be controlled, because a macrosomic baby (above 4kg) and an overweight/obese mom can lead to complications during labour and post-birth, which was my story having added a whooping 40kg by my 42nd week.
So, speaking of that welcome consciousness of weight gain in pregnancy, as plans are being made to bounce back after delivery, plans should also be in place to eat healthily and stay active as much as possible so weight gain is controlled in pregnancy.