A comprehensive global study conducted by a team of Melbourne researchers has noticeably found a majority of women do not have healthy weight gain during pregnancy.
According to the study, more than half of women are gaining a lot of weight in pregnancy, whereas less than a quarter of them are not gaining healthy amounts of weight.
So, how much healthy weight should you gain during pregnancy?
Normally, women are expected to gain 25 to 35 pounds when pregnant. Underweight women, on the other hand, may gain 28 to 40 pounds. Lastly, overweight women should gain only 15 to 25 pounds after becoming pregnant.
Generally, you should gain almost 2 to 4 pounds in the first three months of your pregnancy, and 1 pound every week during the remaining period of your pregnancy. If you are expecting twins, you need to gain 35 to 45 pounds – an average of almost 2 pounds per week after the first three months of usual weight gain – during pregnancy.
The researchers warn that pregnant mothers who gain too much weight have an increased probability of giving birth prematurely and getting smaller babies.
Those who gain too little have an increased likelihood of giving birth to a baby through caesarian section and having obese or overweight children.
The international research, definitely the largest study of expectant women in the world – in developed countries – found at the onset of their pregnancy: 38% of women were obese or overweight, 7% were underweight and 55% had “normal weight”.
It also identified that in their pregnancy: 23% of women do not gain enough weight and almost 50% of them gain too much weight
Led by the Monash University, the research team reviewed data from over 5,300 previous studies and also analysed pregnancy data from 3 groups across the United States, Asia, and Europe. The study was published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.
According to Professor Helena Teede, the study highlights the ever increasing rate of more unhealthy – “less than healthy” or “more than healthy” – weight gains in mothers during the beginning of pregnancy.
“A woman is likely to gain weight more quickly if she started her pregnancy at a slightly higher weight”, she said.
Her advice was, women should not eat a lot in the 1st trimester, but should increase their meal ratios by a small portion in the 2nd trimester and a little bit more during the 3rd trimester. A healthy diet and a little bit of exercise are all it takes for perfect weight.
“Keep in mind you aren’t eating for two! Increasing your calories in small amounts is just enough to gain the right amount of weight in pregnancy”, Teede added.
Being overweight when pregnant can increase pre-term births and caesarian births, and lead to bigger kids. Alternatively, the mother’s weight can substantially affect the baby’s and mother’s health, not forgetting the “long term” health of the two.
Professor Teede also observed that increase in weight is partly due to women becoming expectant later in life.
She also referenced other studies, which indicate younger women are gaining weight more quickly than previous generations.
Her final sentiments were a call to action for weight to be regularly monitored during pregnancy and health experts be trained to offer support throughout the stage of pregnancy.