How to Gain Weight during Pregnancy

Not Gaining Enough Weight During Pregnancy – Causes and Tips to Deal With it

Gaining a healthy weight during pregnancy is important for the growth and development of the baby. And for most pregnant women, gaining weight is not a problem – it happens easily. But then there are other women who may not be able to pack on the pounds as required during pregnancy. Not gaining enough weight during pregnancy not only tires out a woman fast but can also give rise to certain pregnancy complications.

The good news is you don’t need to add to your worries: with a proper diet plan and the right tips, you can gain the required amount of weight.

How Much Weight Should a Woman Gain During Pregnancy?

For a woman, whose body mass index (BMI) falls in the healthy range, gaining anywhere between 9 and 13 kgs is considered ideal. Find out whether you’re in the ‘normal weight’ range by using a BMI calculator. If your BMI is high, you’ll need to shed a few pounds to avoid complications and preterm labor during pregnancy. According to the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine in 2009, here’s a chart that shows the ideal weight gain recommendations for women who are pregnant or planning to be. 

Pre-pregnancy BMI Target weight gain for a single pregnancy in Kgs Target weight gain for multiples in Kgs
< 18.5 12 – 18
18.5 – 24.9 11 – 15 16 – 24
25 – 29.9 6 – 11 14 – 22
30 > 4 – 9 11 – 19

When Will You Start Gaining Weight?

Weight gain will depend on several factors – genetics, metabolism, environment, activity level, and calories in and out. If you’re at a healthy starting weight, expect to gain about 3 kgs during the first trimester of pregnancy and 500 gms each week during the remainder of your pregnancy weeks. Doctors recommend an intake of 340 extra calories a day during the second trimester and 450 extra calories every day during the third trimester of pregnancy.

Pregnant woman with pregnancy calculator

Alternatively, you can use a pregnancy calculator to find out how much weight you need to gain based on your height and pre-pregnancy weight.

What If You Don’t Gain Enough Weight?

In the first trimester of your pregnancy, your baby’s growth won’t be affected as the foetus will be too small and so will its nutrient requirements. The foetus develops rapidly from the second trimester onwards and it is the time when complications may arise if you don’t put on enough weight. The baby may not get enough nutrients and may be born with low birth weight. The baby will be required to be kept under hospice care for long. He/she may also have low blood sugar levels and may not be able to feed properly.

Reasons for Insufficient Weight Gain

The main reasons for low weight gain or insufficient weight gain during pregnancy are:

  • A diet lacking in healthy fats, high-calorie proteins, and other essential nutrients may affect a woman’s weight.
  • Chromosomal abnormalities in the baby
  • Medical conditions such as pre-eclampsia may affect a woman’s weight and supplying oxygen and nutrients to the baby from the placenta
  • Emotional problems and stress
  • Loss of appetite
  • Morning sickness
  • Fast metabolism

How to Increase Weight in Pregnancy?

So, how do you gain weight during pregnancy? If you are having trouble gaining weight during pregnancy, here’s what you should do.

1. Have Five to Six Small Meals a Day

Instead of having three big meals a day, go for five to six small meals a day. It can improve your metabolism and promote healthy weight gain. Make sure your diet comprises foods that are rich in healthy fats, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and lots of plant-rich protein and organic lean meats. It will help increase calorie density easily. You should try and eat protein-rich foods first.

Five to Six Meals a Day

2. Maintain a Healthy BMI

By staying within a healthy weight range before pregnancy, you maximize your chances of success for sufficient weight gain during the trimesters of your pregnancy. Plus, you won’t have to worry about losing weight or packing on kilos beyond the recommended limits.

3. Avoid Eating Junk Food

You may be tempted to eat French fries or waffles to satiate your cravings and to pack pounds (a quick way, indeed), but you won’t get any nutrition from these foods. Processed foods will result in unhealthy weight gain and no nutrition. Junk and spicy food can also cause heartburn during pregnancy, so it’s best avoided.

Avoid Junk Food

4. Consult a Nutritionist or a Dietician

Speak to a nutritionist with regards to food choices you should make during pregnancy for a healthy weight gain.

Pregnant woman consulting nutrition expert

5. Practise Pregnancy-safe Exercises

Moving around your body is necessary to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and regular metabolism, as it promotes steady weight gain in the long run. Practise pregnancy-safe exercises after checking with your doctor. Staying physically active during pregnancy is necessary; it can also help prevent pre-eclampsia.

6. Don’t Skip Meals

Skipping meals can interfere with your weight gain goals so don’t skip a meal during pregnancy. Morning sickness and nausea during pregnancy may make you want to skip meals, but you know that won’t be good for your baby’s health. Have a balanced diet and stay healthy!

When to Consult the Doctor

Frequent and persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy can hinder weight gain. If you belong to the 1 to 3% of women experiencing hyperemesis gravidarum, it may impede the essential supply of nutrients and vitamins needed for your baby’s growth, leading to potential dehydration for both you and your baby.

Inform your doctor if your morning sickness is severe, as signs of hyperemesis gravidarum include the inability to retain food or liquids and weight loss. Your healthcare provider might suggest lifestyle adjustments or prescribe medication to help manage the condition.

For those with a history of eating disorders or body image issues, pregnancy weight gain can pose challenges, with regular weigh-ins potentially triggering anxiety. Openly discuss any past or present disordered eating with your practitioner. They may recommend consulting a qualified registered dietitian capable of designing diets tailored to address specific medical conditions.

FAQs

1. How can you track your weight gain in pregnancy?

You can track your weight gain during pregnancy by regularly measuring and recording your weight, following your healthcare provider’s guidelines. It’s important to discuss any concerns or deviations with your healthcare team.

2. How does age impact weight gain during pregnancy?

Age can influence weight gain during pregnancy. Generally, younger women may gain more weight due to their own growth, while older women might experience different metabolic changes. Your healthcare provider will consider various factors to determine a suitable weight gain range based on your age and health.

3. How does hydration impact weight gain during pregnancy?

Adequate hydration is crucial during pregnancy, but water weight should not be confused with healthy weight gain. Drinking enough water supports overall health, but excessive water retention is not considered a healthy form of weight gain. It’s essential to maintain a balanced and nutritious diet while staying properly hydrated.

Whether you’re planning to become pregnant or are expecting a delivery, putting on those pounds in a healthy way will not only help you and your body but also your baby. So eat healthy, exercise regularly, and stay happy. It may seem difficult at first, but you will gain the necessary weight during pregnancy without any worries! And if you’re still not gaining weight in pregnancy, please consult with your doctor at the earliest.

References/Resources:

1. Weight Gain During Pregnancy; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pregnancy-weight-gain.htm

2. Weight Gain During Pregnancy; The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2013/01/weight-gain-during-pregnancy

3. Managing your weight gain during pregnancy; Mount Sinai; https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/selfcare-instructions/managing-your-weight-gain-during-pregnancy

4. FAQs: Morning Sickness: Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy; The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/morning-sickness-nausea-and-vomiting-of-pregnancy

5. What are Eating Disorders?; American Psychiatric Association; https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/eating-disorders/what-are-eating-disorders

6. Pregnancy weight gain: What’s healthy?; Mayo Clinic; https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-weight-gain/art-20044360

7. Kominiarek. M, Peaceman. A; Gestational Weight Gain (American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology); National Library of Medicine; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5701873/; May 2017

Also Read: 

Overweight and Pregnancy
Risks of Underweight Pregnancy
Increase Fetal Weight while Pregnant
Safe Ways of Losing Weight during Pregnancy

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