Weight Gain During Pregnancy

Weight gain is a normal part of being pregnant. But how much weight gain is a healthy weight gain, and when does it start to become excessive?

There is no definitive rule as every body has a different physique. Generally a better way to measure healthy weight gain is to use body mass index (BMI) which is a ratio of your weight to height. You do not want this index to exceed 25.

Taking into account that the average female height in Australia is 163cm (ABS.org.au), what it translates to is that ‘average’ weight gain during pregnancy is about 10kg to 12kg. You can do the math here for yourself.

What’s important is that you maintain good habits with eating and exercise when you are pregnant. Excessive weight gain can lead to other problems such as gestational diabetes as well as affect your mood and energy levels.

How much extra can I eat?

What may be interesting to know is that when you’re pregnant, you do not need to eat for 2. And being pregnant does not mean you can eat anything you want and get away with it.

Depending on which trimester you are in, on average you will require only the following additional daily energy intake:

  • First trimester: 300 Kj or 71 Calories per day
  • Second trimester: 600 Kj or 143 Calories per day
  • Third trimester 900 Kj or 215 Calories per day

It should be noted that 300 kj is not a lot of additional food intake. It is the equivalent of a slice of bread or about 50 grams of ice cream.

How to maintain your physical well being.

There are no secrets here. The same rules apply to maintaining your physical well being when you’re pregnant as when you’re not.  To recap…

Diet is the most important element. Not only to ensure nutritional well being of you and your child, but also to manage the right sort of energy intake.

Remember to:

  • Drink lots of water
  • Eat lots of fruit and vegetables
  • Avoid fatty or sugary foods
  • Take supplements such as folic acid and iron if you’re not getting enough through your fruit and veggie intake

Exercise has a dual benefit. It will help burn excess kilojoules and maintain healthy weight levels. But if you stay active and fit during your pregnancy, you will have a better birthing experience. Some great exercises for pregnant women include:

  • Swimming
  • Cycling (or spin class at the gym)
  • Walking
  • Yoga and pilates
Feel good about yourself

What’s important to remember is that you should feel good about being pregnant, and don’t compare yourself to other mothers if you’re feeling a little self conscious. Do not try to lose weight during pregnancy. Exercise within your limits and don’t deny yourself any treats if sometimes you feel like it. Your pregnancy is a once in a lifetime experience (every pregnancy is different) so enjoy it and feel comfortable with the changes your body is experiencing.  You will know yourself if you’re eating and exercising sufficiently, and if your weight gain is at a healthy level or not.

Need more information?

The information on this website has been developed for the purposes of patient education, and does  not substitute for professional recommendations based on an individual clinical assessment. Please consult your obstetrician regarding any questions you might have regarding any potential issues with your weight in pregnancy.
Exercising During Pregnancy

There is epidemiologic data that suggests that exercising during pregnancy is beneficial for the same reasons that pre-pregnancy exercise is beneficial. It will help improve the health and well-being of the mother. In the absence of either medical or obstetrical complications, 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise a day on most, if not all, days of the week is recommended for pregnant women.

For the gestational diabetic or the morbidly obese woman (BMI >33), exercising during pregnancy, along with the recommended diet, can adjunctively help maintain normal blood sugars.

What are the benefits for the mother and baby?

In addition to those benefits listed above, regular exercises help maintain the cardiovascular system, which in turn stabilises blood pressure and reduces the risk of diabetes. In the pregnant woman, this improved cardiovascular state maintains a healthy placental perfusion.

What are some of the exercises which women should avoid when pregnant?

The cardiovascular system changes in pregnancy. After the first trimester, the uterus enlarges to such a degree that the excess weight obstructs the vena cava which is the main venous return to the heart. If a woman lies flat on her back, this obstruction is maximised. This obstruction results in decreased output from the heart and resultant hypotension, or low blood pressure. Symptomatically, the woman could feel giddy and even lose consciousness temporaily. Alternatively, motionless standing positions are also associated with decreased cardiac output,  symptomatic giddiness and loss of consciousness. Both positions, laying flat on your back and standing motionless, should be avoided during pregnancy.

Each sport must be analysed for its safety. Any activity with a high potential for contact such as hockey, football, and basketball could result in trauma to both mother and foetus. Similarly, activities with an increased risk of falling such as gymnastics, rollerblading or vigorous racquet sports should be avoided. Scuba diving exposes the foetus to the effects of decompression sickness and should thus be avoided.

You should stop all exercise if you have any of the following symptoms: vagina bleeding, dizziness, headache, chest pain, muscle weakness, calf pain or swelling, decreased fetal movement or amniotic fluid leakage.

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