Pregnancy weight gain: What’s healthy for you?

A dietician weighs in on pregnancy weight gain and offers some guidelines…

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We know your pregnancy cravings are the reason behind those late-night trips to the fridge in search of ice cream, or the left-over pizza from dinner. But, be mindful that putting on too much weight during pregnancy can be harmful to both you and your baby. And contrary to your mother-in-law’s advice that you now need to eat for two, you really only need about 350 to 450 extra calories per day during your second and third trimester, according to registered dietician Lila Bruk, based in Johannesburg. That’s the equivalent to an extra peanut butter sandwich, a banana and a glass of milk.

So, what is a considered “normal” weight gain in pregnancy?

Lila says weight gain during pregnancy is generally determined by your Body Mass Index (BMI). You can work this out by using your pre-conception weight in kilograms divided by your height in metres squared.

Click here for a BMI calculator.

Pregnancy weight-gain guidelines

She explains the latest guidelines indicate that underweight women (with a BMI less than 18) should gain between 13 and 18kg; women of normal weight (with a BMI between 18 and 25), should gain between 11 and 16kgs; those who are overweight (with a BMI between 25 and 30) should only gain between 7kg and 12kgs; and obese women (with a BMI of 30 and greater) should only gain between 5kg and 9kg.

What will happen if I put on too much weight – or too little?

Gaining too little weight increases the risk that your baby will be born smaller than expected, says Lila. On the flip side, if you put on too much weight, you put yourself at risk of pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes and high blood pressure disorders of pregnancy like pre-eclampsia. It can also lead to dangerous complications during labour and delivery, and the need for a C-section.

How do I keep my weight in check?

General advice is to eat sensibly, get some light exercise, and interpret cravings healthily. In other words, if you’re craving something sweet, for example, try to make a healthier food choice. Lila suggests swopping that chocolate bar for some dates or if you have to have chocolate, dipping some strawberries in some melted dark chocolate instead. If you’re retaining too much water, or if your weight gain is excessively low, chat to your doctor or midwife. They’ll advise what’s right for you and if your baby is developing properly.

ALSO SEE: 8 top pregnancy nutrition tips from a dietician

Once your little one is born, breastfeeding will burn calories, and you’ll probably be so wrapped up in being a mom, that a few extra kilos won’t matter at first. But, when you’re ready, you can take your baby for walks, and before you know it, you’ll be running after a busy toddler 24/7!

More about the expert:

Lila Bruk is a registered dietician and nutritional consultant based in Illovo, Johannesburg and has been in private practice since 2006. She also gives regular lectures on nutrition-related topics around the country, and appears regularly on television and radio. Learn more about Lila Bruk here.

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