Preggers and confused about the extra kilogrammes you should be carrying? Keep your weight gain on track with these easy tips.
WORDS LOW LAI CHOW
As there is evidence to suggest that a long list of problems are associated with both low weight gain (such as low blood sugar in the baby) as well as high (such as risk of gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, gestational hypertension and preterm delivery), it’s no wonder that many expecting mothers worry if they are putting on the right weight. Here, the doctors weigh in on some guidelines to make that pregnancy journey less bumpy.
1. Your pre-pregnancy BMI hints at how much weight to gain
Whether you were underweight, of average weight or overweight before you were pregnant makes a world of difference as to how much weight you can expect to gain, says Dr Cheryl Kam, integrative family physician of Mint Medical Centre. A mum-to-be with normal Body Mass Index (BMI) prior to pregnancy can expect to pack on about 11-16kg in total, with even higher gains for pregnancies with twins or multiples.
To calculate BMI, take your pre-pregnancy weight in kilogrammes
and divide it by the square of your height in metres; a score of 18.5-24.9 places you
in the normal range; 18.5 and below means you are underweight;
25-29.9 is overweight, and anything above 3O is obese.
2. Eat what you crave for — or can stomach
Nausea, vomiting and lack of appetite can cause many mums-to-be to lose weight in the first trimester, says Dr Paul Tseng, obstetrician and gynaecologist of TLC Gynaecology Practice, Clinic and Surgery for Women at Thomson Medical Centre. However, this is nothing to be alarmed about; the discomfort they face at this early stage is a temporary one that usually goes away after the twelfth week. “During this period, there is no need to be fussy with the food. Eat whatever you can eat and want to eat. It’s the body's way of telling you what it needs, hence the odd cravings,” he says, warning against forcibly eating more than one can handle as this only aggravates the situation. “I have had patients who were vegans having a strong urge to eat meat. Give in to these cravings!”
3. You can — and should! — get on with your exercise
Many cautious mums-to-be often steer away from exercising during pregnancy for fear of posing unwanted danger to the unborn baby. But they — and the baby — would probably be better off with it. Urging mums-to-be with healthy and uncomplicated pregnancies to stay fit by pursuing activities they are familiar with or were doing prior to pregnancy, Dr Tseng says they need not worry that exercise will cause a miscarriage or bring on premature labour. Dr Kam recommends doing about two and a half hours of moderate intensity exercise a week to keep the mother healthy, while Dr Tseng says awareness of how you feel is of paramount importance: “It (your body) will tell you if it is too strenuous or too painful and damaging. You must be able to perform these exercises comfortably and without much discomfort.”
4. Eat for two? No, eat for quality
Think nutrition, not calories. “Although there is no need to eat for two in terms of calories, a good guideline is to eat as nutritiously for two as possible. Almost all healthy pregnant women require a little more protein, zinc, folate, choline and iron,” says Dr Kam. While supplementing with prenatal vitamins can help to ensure any nutritional gaps are filled, always turn to whole food sources as your primary source as much as possible, she says, advising to always check with your obstetrician for a tailored plan and specific recommendations. As Dr Tseng emphasises, “Eating the right foods in the right proportions is key to managing your weight in pregnancy.”
5. Expect to gain differently in each trimester
“Although there are average weight gain values, not everyone gains this weight accordingly. Some gain most in the first trimester, some in the second and some in the third. There is a huge variation here,” says Dr Kam. Most women can expect to gain anything from 500g to 2kg in the first trimester without the need to take in additional calories. With the second trimester, the pace of weight gain is likely to pick up to 0.5 to 1kg per week. They can also look at continuing to gain about 0.5 to 1kg per week in their third trimester, though they will generally need more calories for this final leg of their pregnancy, she emphasises. “An average of 450 calories extra is required to account for baby's functioning and growth,” says Dr Kam of the third trimester.
6. Eat a diabetic diet
Alluding to pregnancy as being “a physiologically diabetic state,” Dr Tseng says mums-to-be can benefit from eating like a diabetic throughout their pregnancies, though they may not be one. “Refrain from taking foods rich in refined sugars and simple carbohydrates,” he says. “Concentrate more on the proteins, fibre and complex carbohydrates.”
7. Relax and worry less
While expecting mothers may panic about packing on the pounds, Dr Kam cautioned against going on drastic weight loss diets during pregnancy. Good lifestyle choices are far more important, she says. “Nutritious food, daily relaxation practices, as well as a healthy level of exercise, are the best things to stay focused on during this exciting time in a mother's life!” Likewise, Dr Tseng says he dislikes recommending weight guidelines: “They very often instil paranoia and fear when they fall outside of these guidelines.” Calm down, and let relaxation follow.