Management of one’s weight on a normal basis, in many cases, is not an easy task and for women who are carrying a pregnancy, the task becomes harder in certain instances.
Weight gain for women during pregnancy varies greatly. Majority of pregnant women add between 10kg and 12.5kg (22 pounds to 26 pounds). Most of this weight is put on after week 20 of the pregnancy. Weight gain during pregnancy is dependent on whether the mother was underweight or overweight before pregnancy and also in cases of multiple pregnancies.
There are women who welcome the weight gain, sometimes in the knowledge that it is something they have been longing to achieve, while, for others it is not much of an issue as they feel confident that they will “easily” slide back into shape post-pregnancy.
However, for some women, it is a cause for concern for various reasons, often beginning with the change in their physical appearance, ability to shed the gained weight and impact on their self-esteem, among others.
According to nutritionist Lucy Chege who is the founder of Nutrition Therapy by Lucy, gaining weight during a pregnancy is a good thing but she cautioned against the pitfalls of allowing that weight gain to overwhelm expectant mothers and develop into something serious.
“Weight gain in pregnancy is good for the wellbeing of the baby and the mother, however too much weight gain puts the mother at risks of developing conditions, like gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension and knee and/or joint pains. The baby can also grow bigger than normal making it hard to have a natural birth,” Chege said.
Whatever the case, a pregnant woman, Chege noted, should not go on a diet or try to lose weight during pregnancy as this can affect the unborn child. Making smart meal and snack choices and staying active, unless advised otherwise, will help one keep their pregnancy weight gain on track.
She added that it was also crucial to note that much of the weight gained during pregnancy is not fat, but is related to the baby, with regard to placenta, amniotic fluid, breast tissue, baby pounds, blood supply and fat stores among others.
Bearing this in mind, Chege pointed out that there are simple ways to follow to ensure an expectant mother gains desirable weight.
“Keep in mind that you need to gain weight for a healthy pregnancy. The extra pounds will come off after you have had your baby and breastfeeding can also help the mother go back to her pre-pregnancy weight.”
She recommended that pregnant women eat a balanced diet and refuel often with healthy snacks. While dieting and snacking, she said one ought to trade their sugar cravings with natural sugar.
“Try as much as possible to avoid added sugars or artificial sweeteners and choose natural sugar from fruits and vegetable. Too much consumption of added sugars has been associated with undesirable weight gain. Fresh fruits and vegetables make good snacks. They are full of vitamins and low in calories and fat.”
Going hand in hand with this, she advised that one chooses whole carbohydrates over highly refined carbohydrates and goes light on fats. A high fibre diet will help one feel full for longer and make them less likely to give in to unhealthy cravings later in the day.
Much as one will follow the above rules, Chege warns expectant mothers against falling for the widely-held belief of “eating for two” rather than eating to one’s satisfaction. This, she said, will help reduce the intake of too much unnecessary calories which will be stored as fat.
Finally, she stressed on the importance of staying hydrated, which not only helps one with weight management but also dealing with a host of other digestive and renal functions.
“Drink your water generously and other healthy fluids like soup. Having a water bottle is one way of motivating your water intake. Drinking enough water also helps in digestion and helps reduce cases of constipation.”
“It also helps reduce the occurrence of urinary tract infections (UTI) which are very common among pregnant women.”
The writer, Lucy Chege is a registered and licensed nutritionist based in Kenya, proficient in medical nutrition therapy.
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