Weight gain during pregnancy
For a woman of ‘normal’ weight at conception, how much weight should she expect put on during pregnancy?
On average, it is about 12 kg (261b, or just under two stone). The range is quite wide, from as little as 8 kg to 16 kg, sometimes more. These figures refer to singleton pregnancies. Those with multiple pregnancies, such as twins, are likely to put on more.
What are the factors that determine the amount of weight gained?
As with most circumstances in life, a dietary habit is the most important factor. However, other factors are important too.
The weight before conception is crucial in that the higher the pre-pregnancy weight, the bigger the potential weight gain. Age is another factor, as an older mother will tend to gain more weight.
Parity is also a factor: for each subsequent pregnancy, the weight gained tends to go down.
Is there any particular phase of pregnancy when weight gain is maximal?
Weight gain is not constant throughout the course of pregnancy. In fact, in the first ten weeks of pregnancy, weight put on is minimal, averaging no more than 1 to 1.5 kg for that entire period.
After about 14 weeks, the average weight gain accelerates to about 0.4 to 0.5 kg weekly. This is almost 2 kg (4.4 lb) every month. After about the 30 weeks mark, the rate of weight gain is again reduced. In the last weeks of pregnancy, there may be little or no weight gain at all.
It is important to remember that much of the weight gained is retained water and also that the uterine contents (fetus, placenta and amniotic fluid) account for a lot of the weight, which is going to be lost instantly at delivery.
But surely there is weight gained in the form of fat?
Yes. Some fat is laid on under the skin in the back, abdomen and thigh areas. This occurs mostly in the first half of pregnancy. The propensity for this differs among individuals, but in most cases, it is only little or modest. Proper exercise started a few days after a normal delivery, almost always succeed in eliminating this.
What happens to body weight after delivery?
As mentioned before, a substantial proportion of the weight gained during pregnancy is retained water. This phenomenon is promoted and maintained as a direct effect of pregnancy hormones especially progesterone.
Within ten days of delivery, all the excess water will have been lost. At this stage, the mother will be only about 3 kg above her pre-pregnancy weight, provided she has had a sensible diet during pregnancy. This remaining weight is mostly the fat and, to a small extent, protein gained during pregnancy.
How can the fat be shifted?
A woman who is generally physically active and who maintains this lifestyle after delivery may not need to do anything extra and the excess fat will be lost, even though it may take up to ten weeks for her to reach her pre-pregnancy weight.
Breast-feeding, preferably when not mixed with bottle-feeding, helps in accelerating the process of weight loss. This is because of the extra calorie requirements on the body. For a woman who is in a hurry to lose the weight, appropriate exercises will help.