(Tuesday, 31st Mar, 2015)
Weight gain in pregnancy
The whole issue of weight gain in pregnancy is a very contentious one, about which widely differing views are held by both health professionals and lay people alike. While some maternity hospitals in Ireland request pregnant women to stand on the weighing scales at almost every antenatal visit, others do not place a major emphasis on weight gain at all.
All women must obviously gain weight during their pregnancy, and doctors would rather see their patients putting on weight than losing it.
The fact that weight must be gained in pregnancy is not in doubt, but what there is a certain amount of dispute about is how much weight should be gained. There is no concrete answer to this question, but certain guidelines are recommended by the medical profession. In looking at these guidelines, you must take into account that each individual is different and what may be an excessive weight gain for one person may be deemed to be acceptable for another.
It is generally accepted that a woman will gain between 25 and 30 pounds by the end of her pregnancy, with the bulk of the extra weight being gained between the 20th and 30th week.
The weight gain associated with pregnancy alone is estimated to be 18lb, and any weight gained after that is caused, in the majority of cases, by the deposition of fat and the retention of fluid.
There is no truth in the old saying that a pregnant woman should "eat enough for two" but many women who have a hang-up about their weight find that they actually adopt a much healthier approach to food during their pregnancy.
No extra weight should be gained during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and many women find that they actually lose weight during this period because of nausea, vomiting and the associated loss of appetite.
Weight will gradually begin to increase after the 12th or 14th week, but even then there should only be a marginal weight gain up to the 20th week.
It is between the 20th and 30th week that the most weight is gained. An excessive amount of weight gain at this point is advised against, as it can be associated with the potentially serious condition known as pre-eclampsia.
The speed of weight gain should slow down again after the 30th week of pregnancy, and a small amount of weight can be lost as the expected date of delivery approaches.
If a pregnant woman gains an acceptable amount of weight during her pregnancy (i.e. between 25 and 30 lbs.) she can expect to return to her pre-pregnancy weight within three months of delivery provided she sticks to a sensible and well-balanced diet. However, the reality is that many women find it very difficult to lose weight after having a baby.
Breastfeeding does help to reduce weight in some women, while others find that the weight just resolutely refuses to shift.
The golden rule should be to gain an acceptable amount of weight in pregnancy so that the bulk of it disappears in the delivery suite!
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