Let’s Talk About Pregnancy Weight Gain
Pregnancy weight gain is a touchy topic.
One of the first things that I struggled with as a newly pregnant young lady at the age of 18 years old, were the consistent comments talking about my weight. As a young person who struggled with an eating disorder, pregnancy was not easy for me to begin with. I was learning to accept that my body needed to put on weight to support a healthy pregnancy.
But people can be complete jerks. At no other time during a woman’s life is it normalized or encouraged for people to consistently remark about a woman’s weight than during a pregnancy. At no other time in a woman’s life is weight so discussed both in the doctor’s office and with family and friends.
Everyone wants to know or has something to say about whether you are gaining too much weight or too little weight or whether your weight is all in the front or whether your weight is all in your rear end. What a difficult thing for any woman to have to tolerate! The only time that your weight needs to be a part of the conversation is when you are discussing your health and the health of your baby.
In this article, we will discuss some of the complexities about weight gain during pregnancy both from a societal standpoint and from the standpoint of your health.
And I’ll go ahead and let you know, we support body positivity–especially during pregnancy when your body is creating a miracle. We are not going to shame you over your weight gain, and we believe that you shouldn’t do that to yourself either.
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So, let’s talk about pregnancy weight gain.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released some new guidelines in 2009 that takes a woman’s starting point body mass index into consideration to determine optimal weight gain for pregnancy. This makes a lot of sense because just having a general set of numbers for all women does not take the woman’s health and starting weight into consideration. This general map of weight gain is now improved as a better benchmark for healthy pregnancy weight gain.
Most of the time when women go to their prenatal doctor’s appointments, weight is taken at intake and charted as a data point. These moments can be stressful for some women. Any conversation about weight can be stressful for some women. This does not magically go away when pregnancy occurs. Some women have a hard time with weight gain or are starting out their pregnancy with a weight issue. Both of these circumstances can make it very difficult for women during their pregnancy.
It is also challenging to view one’s weight as simply a data point that is necessary in gauging a healthy pregnancy. Weight is different from other metrics because it feels personal to most women. It is normally considered rude to ask a woman about her weight and suddenly we are being asked this question at every doctor’s appointment and by many people in our social circles. How then do we separate our need for privacy from the need to manage and carry out a healthy pregnancy?
It goes without saying that weight gain is a natural process of pregnancy that will occur for most women. Every woman is different and every pregnancy is different. Some women gain only a few pounds while others gain a lot more. What is important is to focus on your overall general health and follow your doctor’s recommendations should your weight gain become problematic.
Healthy Weight gain during pregnancy
When I was pregnant with both of my pregnancies, I began those pregnancies underweight. For each pregnancy I gained exactly 40 pounds. The weight gain appeared to be a tremendous amount of weight gain on my small frame. Needless to say it attracted conversational attention from many people around me. I was always very insecure about my weight even though I was generally underweight. This led to an eating disorder in my early 20s in the years surrounding both of my pregnancies.
When I was pregnant I found it easier to tolerate weight gain but I found it very difficult to tolerate all of the comments about my weight gain, which made me even more insecure about my weight. This heightened my eating disorder following the births of my children. While most women do not suffer from eating disorders they do suffer from a general insecurity about their weight.
So, what is healthy? How much weight should you be gaining? We’ll address some of these issues in the following sections, and of course, we will also address what to do about those pesky comments that you get from the people around you.
Let’s take a look at what healthy weight gain looks like during a normal, healthy pregnancy.
Here are some data points from the Mayo Clinic regarding healthy weight gain and based on the beginning parameter of BMI, which is your body mass index. Please note that these guidelines are averages. You may experience more or less weight gain than what is average for other people.
- For an underweight BMI of 18.5 and less, most women will gain between 28 to 40 pounds.
- For a normal BMI of 18.5 to 24.9, most women will gain 25 to 35 pounds. (37 to 54 pounds for twins or multiples.)
- For an overweight BMI of 25 to 29.9, most women will gain between 15 to 20 pounds. (31 to 50 pounds for twins or multiples.)
- Four and OB’s BMI of over 30, most women will gain between 11 to 20 pounds. (25 to 42 pounds for twins or multiples.)
One trend to notice about these data is that the lower a woman’s weight is (in relation to her height) aka the lower the BMI, the higher the weight gain tends to be through pregnancy. Pregnancy requires a certain amount of weight gain to support a healthy pregnancy and if your body begins with less fat stores and less weight to manage a healthy pregnancy, the body will naturally put on a few more pounds.
It is also important to note that eating habits often change when people become pregnant. The phrase “eating for two” is a helpful reminder to us that our eating habits are not only affecting our own bodies but are also affecting the growth and development of our baby. But it can also be a license to loosen our restraint with regards to eating. For some women this leads to overindulgence or overeating from the pregnancy giving them permission to loosen their normal limits when it comes to eating. Eating for two does not mean that you need to just eat anything and everything you want. It is important to maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet that will support your pregnancy but not add a lot of extra weight gain which could complicate your pregnancy. Being reasonably aware of your own diet and keeping it healthy for yourself will also benefit your baby.
How do I know if I am gaining too much gestational weight?
If your doctor is concerned about your weight gain, they may review your diet with you a bit more and give you some strategies for keeping your weight gain in the healthy zone. Your doctor will take a look at your weight gain when you come in for your appointments. It is to be expected that there may be some weeks or months where you gain more than other weeks or months during your pregnancy. Your doctor can answer any questions that you have about
whether or not you should be alarmed over a sudden spike in weight gain. Your doctor will work with you about maintaining a healthy diet for your pregnancy and a healthy amount of physical activity for a healthy gestational weight.
**Check out this article about 10 foods that you should eat during your pregnancy
Is it OK for other people to ask me about my weight gain?
Pregnancy seems to open the door for people to make all kinds of comments about a woman’s body and a woman’s weight and all of a woman’s behaviors during a pregnancy. It can be very intrusive and it can certainly invade your privacy. Weight gain is one of the most common topics of conversation on which other people find themselves giving you all sorts of unwarranted advice or comments.
The short answer to this question is no. It’s not okay for strangers to ask you how much weight you’ve gained with your pregnancy. It’s not okay for family members or friends to tell you you’re getting fat or remark about your weight gain. It is simply no one’s business but your business and your doctor’s. If those comments people are making to you make you feel uncomfortable, it is okay for you to set the standard for what is okay with you and what is not. Perhaps weight gain doesn’t bother you at all and you simply see it as a part of your health that can be openly discussed if you so choose. If that is the case, then carry on and discuss what you feel comfortable discussing. But if you don’t feel comfortable with anyone and everyone commenting about your body or your weight, then it is important for you to set the standard, set the tone for your conversations, and set clear boundaries. Effectively communicate those boundaries and let people know what is okay with you to talk about and what is off the table.
Set the tone
Set the tone for your conversations. If you begin a conversation complaining about your weight gain, you can be assured that the other person will take that as an open invitation to ask you how much you have gained or to make comments regarding your weight gain. If you don’t want to have these conversations you have to control the narrative by being careful what you bring into the conversation. Speak positively about your pregnancy and your health but leave out the details that invite the conversations that you don’t want to have.
Set clear boundaries
I grew up in the South where it was considered rude to not openly entertain social conversations or to set understandable boundaries within your conversations. There was an open ended invitation for people to say pretty much whatever they wanted to say. But in today’s day and age we know that mental health can be a problem if we don’t set clear boundaries for ourselves and this could not be more true than when you are pregnant. You may be a bit more sensitive or emotional than you normally are about your weight issues. It is okay for you to keep the topic general in your conversations. It is okay for you to let people know you’re not comfortable discussing your weight. It is also okay for you to ignore people who are persistently giving you a hard time about your weight.
Have a few quick responses ready:
- My doctor feels I am gaining weight normally. (Then shift the conversation back to a more comfortable talking point.)
- I have gained some weight but I am more focused on eating healthy and feeling good. (Change the focus back to a healthy pregnancy.)
- If they insist on talking about weight gain–ask them about their weight gain during their pregnancies. Perhaps they’d rather share about themselves and then you could avoid the uncomfortable conversations about your own body.
- Tell them you do not want to discuss your body or your weight but are happy to discuss how well your baby is growing.
How do I keep a positive mindset about my weight gain during pregnancy?
It is important to stay positive about all of the changes your body is going through during pregnancy, especially weight gain. Society and television and all of the messaging that we get from outside influences really affects the chatter that goes on in our own minds regarding our bodies.
During a pregnancy it can be a complicated time for your mind to interpret the shift in attention to your body and your weight. You have all of those internal dialogue messages going on with regards to your own self image plus the outside influences that over sexualize women’s bodies, plus the new focus on your health as it pertains to a pregnancy. All of these conflicting ideas can make it hard to just take a step back and not hyperfocus on the weight you are gaining during your pregnancy. It becomes this number that stays in your head that you might worry about during your pregnancy. It is not a number that you should be measuring your self-worth against. It is not a number by which you should be measuring your accomplishment as a “good pregnant person.” It is simply a number that measures one aspect of your health in comparison to other parameters of your health so that your doctor can adequately evaluateyour condition. That is all. A number that measures a part of your health.
So you have to do the mental work to pick apart the societal messages, field off the uncomfortable messages that continue throughout your pregnancy via other people’s comments and remarks or their up-and-down glances that take in your appearance. You have to do the mental work of deciding what is important to you and to your health. First and foremost in your mind is carrying a baby through a healthy pregnancy to delivery. That is your focus. When you begin feeling down about your weight and it makes you feel bad about yourself, talk to a professional about this. It is okay to have a hard time dealing with weight gain during pregnancy. What is not okay is that others make you feel this way about yourself.
Take care of your mind and your body throughout your pregnancy and keep your focus on making healthy choices and protecting your mental health and growing that beautiful baby. The weight gain is simply a part of the process and you can make peace with it. You can also choose not to be so focused on it that you lose sight of your end goal. We wish you the best with your pregnancy. Please check out some of our other pregnancy-related topics and articles.
This article is brought to you by our contributing writers and parents here at the Babienet Parenting Community, where we value the stories of parents just like you! We welcome you to share your journey with us.
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Christina M Ward is a mom, grandmother, and writer of lots and lots of words. When she’s not busy obsessing over writing poetry and well-living articles, she is out in nature exploring or doing needlepoint crafts in front of Netflix. She loves books and reading, learning geeky things about nature, and helping other people live their best life.
Let’s Talk About Pregnancy Weight Gain addresses healthy pregnancy weight gain and how women can deal with the societal attention on their gestational weight.