The Great Weight Debate



Pregnancy might be the only time in a woman’s life that she is expected to gain weight. In fact, a baby’s growth and development depend on Mom’s putting on pounds.
So what is considered “normal” weight gain during pregnancy?

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, one factor to consider is whether you were underweight, overweight or at a normal weight before pregnancy.
Stephen Gordon, D.O., of the Gordon Medical Group in Kansas City, MO, says, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In other words, getting to an ideal weight before you conceive can help ward off potential health problems for you and your baby during pregnancy and childbirth.

Weight Gain Guidelines

In 2009, The Institute of Medicine (IOM) implemented new guidelines for pregnancy weight gain. The IOM made their guidelines using body mass index (BMI) as the starting point. BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.
Here are the guidelines, using pre-pregnancy BMI:

  • BMI of 18.5-24.9 (healthy weight) You should gain between 25 and 35 pounds—1 to 5 pounds in the first trimester and about 1 pound a week the rest of the pregnancy.
  • BMI below 18.5 (underweight) You should gain 28 to 40 pounds.
  • BMI of 25 to 29.9 (overweight) You should gain 15 to 25 pounds.
  • BMI of 30 or higher (obese) You should gain 11 to 20 pounds.
  • If you’re having twins, you should gain 37 to 54 pounds if you start at a healthy weight, 31 to 50 pounds if you are overweight, and 25 to 42 pounds if you are obese.

What Happens If You Gain More or Less Than You Should?

Courtney Younglove, M.D., of the Women’s Healthcare Group in Overland Park and Lawrence, says, “High weight gain in pregnancy can result in a large baby, a c-section, high blood pressure and childhood obesity.”

She also says that women who enter pregnancy overweight have a higher risk of stillbirth, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, hypertension and having a baby with a birth defect.
Dr. Gordon says that if one of his patients is gaining too much weight, he tries to figure out where the calories are coming from. “The biggest culprits are non-diet sodas, bottled juices and fresh fruits, due to the sugar content.”

Patients who gain too little weight are less common, but it does happen. Dr. Younglove says that low weight gain can result in poor fetal growth, preterm labor and low birth weight.

Staying Within Your Goals

Pregnancy is a license to dive into a pint of ice cream every night, right? Wrong. Eating for two does not mean eating twice as much as you did before you became pregnant.
In fact, women typically do not need any extra calories during the first trimester of pregnancy. According to the IOM, you need around 340 extra calories a day in your second trimester and 450 extra calories a day during your third trimester.

Gardner resident Susan Shafer, pregnant with her first child, says, “I do allow myself treats, but I don’t go overboard. You aren’t going to deliver a 40-pound baby, so the extra weight you gain is going to be there once the little one is delivered!”

Packing nutrients into your daily food choices is important, so make sure those extra calories aren’t coming from junk food. Your diet needs to consist of whole grains, protein, dairy, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats/oils. Limiting processed foods, sugars and extra fats can help you achieve your weight goals.

Exercise is an important component that will help you stay within your weight goals, too. Dr. Gordon says, “Even if you were not physically fit before pregnancy, you can always walk, swim, take the stairs instead of the elevator and park your car farther away.”

He advises patients to listen to their bodies while exercising, as the center of balance changes during pregnancy.
Your health care provider can discuss weight gain, diet and exercise with you during your pregnancy.

Tisha Foley writes from her home in Belton. Despite craving red meat and banana Laffy Taffy during her two pregnancies, she managed to stay within the recommended weight gain.

As always, please consult with your health care provider with any questions or concerns. 

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