Pregnancy Weight Gain: What Is Healthy?

The “Magic Number” Myth of Pregnancy Weight Gain

If you look to conventional medicine, you will get a magical number of 25-30 pounds, the ideal amount of weight gain while pregnant. But here is what we know, there is no magical number. Pregnancy is not a one-size-fits-all. All sizes have beautiful and healthy pregnancies. A plethora of different factors impact weight gain in pregnancy. Still, life before conception is one of the most common reasons for the differences in weight gain. If someone weighed more before conception, they would likely gain less, and visa versa with weighing less and gaining more. 

So, if all that information is accurate, that weight gain in pregnancy is super individualized, then why do my care providers weigh me at each visit? 

Why Do Care Providers Weigh You at Appointments?

Mainly your care providers are looking for a rapid increase in weight and your BMI as risk factors for pregnancy ailments like pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. But here is the thing: if a care provider gives you individualized care and notices you on an in-depth level, then weight checks each visit become somewhat unnecessary. A provider who knows their client well will notice a rapid increase in weight or other signs and symptoms for these pregnancy ailments. And on that note, let's talk about BMI.

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The Reason BMI is Inaccurate

BMI, or Body Mass Index, is outdated and racist. Yep, I said it! Are you wondering why? Well, when the Body Mass Index was created in the mid-nineteenth century by a man named Lambert Adolphe Jacques Quetelet. This man was many great things, but one thing he was not was a doctor. His idea behind BMI was to figure out what the average man might look like if he achieved perfection. How did he get his data for configuring BMI? Mainly from white European men. Suppose the BMI was created only using those bodies. In that case, it is leaving out entire groups of individuals and is therefore inaccurate for these individuals. Yet, somehow it has become the basis for measuring health and an indicator of risk factors for a plethora of conditions.

How To Determine Healthy Weight-gain Without BMI

Well, now you might be asking yourself, if we take BMI out of the picture, how can we measure someone's health during pregnancy? And the answer is as simple as this, go back to basics. Focus on your food and listening to your body. Once upon a time, before diets were ever a thing, we listened to our bodies, and they told us the foods that we needed to eat. There are incredible health benefits when we return to this intuitive eating method. Research shows that individuals who intuitively eat have no larger babies or unhealthier pregnancies than those who diet during pregnancy. Intuitive eating is where it is at, and it is what nutritional specialists recommend as the golden standard of care.

Now let's look at pregnancy and see when the primary amount of weight is gained. In the first trimester, many individuals are simply surviving. Morning sickness can be difficult to make it through by itself, let alone while trying to eat nutritious foods. Care providers usually tell first-trimester parents to eat what they can and get protein whenever possible. In some scenarios, individuals might gain a few pounds during the first trimester, but others lose weight. Either way, it is okay. Remember that weight gain in pregnancy is very individualized. Most weight gain occurs in the third trimester, but some can occur in the second. By the third trimester, babies are fattening up and getting bigger rapidly. Weight gain during this time is totally normal. Keep feeding that little chunky baby!

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Pregnancy Weight After Giving Birth

After you give birth, having what looks like a second-trimester belly for a while is completely normal. Sometimes nursing can help individuals lose weight, but more commonly, weight is gained or held onto until nursing stops. Why? Because the body is smart, it knows it needs fats to make milk and holds onto those fats just in case. 

Takeaway

Whatever your body chooses to do, lean into trusting it and thanking it for doing what it thinks it needs to do to grow and maintain your baby during pregnancy and postpartum. Coming into a collective body neutrality position, where you can be thankful even if you find it challenging to look in the mirror and see a body you do not know, is helpful. If you are struggling with the changes occurring in pregnancy and postpartum, reach out for help. Incredible care providers are available to help with disordered eating, specifically in the childbearing days.

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