As an obstetrician and gynaecologist, you’d be surprised at some of the questions I am asked. One of the most frequent is about weight gain in pregnancy. While some women have no problem with the idea of gaining weight during their pregnancy, many are concerned about what level of weight gain is healthy and whether they will be able to lose the weight once the pregnancy is over.
An obstetrician will always check your weight during your first visit and calculate your Body Mass Index or BMI. A normal BMI is usually in the range of 19 to 25. At each visit, your obstetrician will check your weight and BMI to see how you are progressing.
If your BMI is very low, your baby may not put on sufficient weight to be healthy, so we may need to monitor the baby’s growth.
If your BMI is too high it can make it difficult for your obstetrician to assess your baby’s growth and their wellbeing during labour. In this case you may need additional ultrasound scans and extra monitoring during your pregnancy.
Most women gain around 10 to 14 kilograms during their pregnancy. If you gain a lot more eight than that, there can be an increased risk of diabetes in pregnancy. It also becomes much harder to lose the weight after the baby is born.
Of course, there’s no magic ingredient to keeping your weight down when pregnant. The best way is by eating a balanced diet that is high in complex carbohydrates, fibre and protein, and low in fats and sugars. Drink plenty of water (at least 2 litres of water per day - 3 litres in warmer weather) and do 20 to 30 minutes of planned physical exercise per day, of at least moderate intensity.
Don’t overdo the exercise – you’re not training for a triathlon, just to deliver a healthy, happy baby! You should avoid your body becoming overheated during pregnancy, so stay out of the hot sun and avoid very strenuous exercise routines. Stay away from heavier training plans such as combat exercises, and don’t take on exercises that increase your abdominal pressure, such as crunches.
You will probably find that your energy levels are reduced, especially before 16 weeks and after 34 weeks. If you can’t find the time or energy for exercise, try a gentle walk every day. Swimming and aquarobics can also be a good way of exercising, and they’ll help you stay cool.
Pregnancy is an amazing journey for every woman. So keeping an eye on your weight shouldn’t be about watching every kilo and denying yourself that extra mouthful. It’s just a case of ensuring that you are fit and healthy for when the big day arrives – and so is your baby.