It’s natural and healthy to put on weight during pregnancy. Your body needs to change to accommodate your growing baby, and to give your baby the best start in life. A well balanced diet is important for good health, not only during pregnancy but even before conception and into the postnatal period. This ensures you have a good store of nutrients to meet the demands of your developing baby.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to eat for two in pregnancy – it’s the quality of what you eat, not always the quantity, that’s important.
What is an Appropriate Weight Gain?
Everyone has different energy and weight gain requirements in pregnancy depending on pre-pregnancy weight. Your weight will be recorded at your first visit to your GP and to the Hospital and your Body Mass Index will be calculated on this measurement. Excessive weight gain is not beneficial to your health nor the health of the pregnancy.
The total amount of weight gained in normal-term pregnancies varies considerably among women. This table contains a guide for singleton pregnancies.
(Specific requirements for multiple births to be discussed with your Consultant Obstetrician)
Aim for a minimum of weight gain up to 20 weeks and an average weight gain of ½ kg or 1 lbs per week from 20 weeks to term. The average daily calorie increase is 150 to 200 calories in the first trimester and 300 calories a day in the second and third (the equivalent of an apple or yogurt).
Be weighed and have your Body Mass Index (BMI) calculated early in or before pregnancy. Be re-weighed regularly in pregnancy.
Trying to lose weight by dieting during pregnancy is not recommended even if you are obese, as it may harm the health of your unborn baby. However, by making healthy changes to your diet you may not gain any weight during pregnancy and you may even lose a small amount. This is not harmful.
How can I safely monitor my weight gain?
You will be more likely to achieve and maintain a healthy weight before, during and after pregnancy if you:
- Cut down on sugar, fat, salt for more fresh fruit, vegetables and high fibre cereals.
- Base your meals on starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta, choosing wholegrain where possible.
- Eat fibre-rich foods such as oats, beans, peas, lentils, grains, seeds, fruit and vegetables, as well as wholegrain bread and brown rice and pasta.
- Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day, in place of foods higher in fat and calories.
- Eat a low-fat diet and avoid increasing the fat and/or calorie intake in your food.
- Eat as little as possible of fried food; drinks and confectionery high in added sugars (such as cakes, pastries and fizzy drinks); and other food high in fat and sugar (such as some take-away and fast foods).
- Eat breakfast.
- Watch the portion size of meals and snacks, and how often you are eating.
- Make activities such as walking, cycling, swimming, aerobics and gardening part of everyday life and build activity into daily life – for example, by taking the stairs instead of the lift or taking a walk at lunchtime.
- Adopt a food ratio of :15-20% Protein, 30% Fat, and 50 -55% Carbohydrate.
- Weigh yourself regulary.
If you are overweight or obese at the start
Being overweight (with a BMI above 25) or obese (BMI over 30) increases the risk of complications for pregnant women and their babies. With increasing BMI, the additional risks become gradually more likely, the risks being much higher for women with a BMI of 40 or above. The higher your BMI, the higher the risk!
Key points for minimising the risks:
• If your BMI is 30 or above you should take a daily dose of 5 mg of folic acid. Ideally you should start taking this a month before you
conceive and continue to take it until you reach your 13th week of pregnancy.
• All pregnant women are advised to take a daily dose of 10 micrograms of vitamin D supplements. However, this is particularly
important if you are obese as you are at increased risk of vitamin D deficiency.
• Arrange to speak to your Doctor and Midwife for specific advise if your BMI is above 35.
• Continue to follow the advice on healthy eating and exercise.
• “healthy eating for pregnancy booklet” – www.healthpromotion.ie
• Your General Practitioner, Midwife, Obstetrician