It seems that weight gain during pregnancy has become quite the tabloid preoccupation these days. One has only to open their browser to see a trending topic regarding Kim Kardashian, Jessica Simpson, Kate Middleton or some such other celebrity baby-weight issue. Not surprisingly there is no paucity of opinions regarding their choices. Lots of criticism of Kim and Jessica for gaining too much weight and plenty of “oohs and aahs” and “how’d she do its” for Kate’s rapid return to “fighting weight.” There is a vigorous dialogue going on about this issue which merits an informed response.
Now, while it’s easy to ridicule a woman who gains a great deal of weight during pregnancy, Jessica Simpson is not the first woman to do so and have a healthy baby. Her weight gain could have as much to do with her morphological body type as with how much Ben and Jerry’s she ate. Likewise, most experts would agree that Kate Middleton’s precocious appearance in “skinny jeans” would indicate an unhealthy rate of post-pregnancy weight loss. On the other hand, maybe Kate was super-fit before she got pregnant and continued exercising through her pregnancy, so her body was ready to return to normal very quickly.
It really makes no sense to focus on any of these celebrity moms as archetypes of a healthy pregnancy. Better to follow the advice of your physician and use the guidelines for healthy weight-gain during pregnancy available from the American Medical Association. Here are some good, common sense basics for making your weight gain healthy and your return to your pre-pregnancy weight safe and lasting.
Having a baby begins with a long, gradual hormonal and metabolic stress on your body and ends with a massive physically traumatic event. If you are able to plan your pregnancy, start exercising vigorously three months before getting pregnant and continue, with modifications, through all or most of your pregnancy. If you are already pregnant, exercise is still important and will be beneficial to your weight and physical comfort during your pregnancy and labor. You will have to modify your approach depending on the stage of your pregnancy.
By preparing your body with a good fitness regimen, including strength training, cardiovascular conditioning and flexibility exercises, you will improve your health during your pregnancy, your stamina and comfort during delivery and your ability to restore your physical health post-partum. Programs and fitness professionals trained in exercise for expectant mothers can be found just about anywhere in the country where women are having babies and your physician can be a source for that information.
It is important to include your physician in your plans for exercise during this time because your body will be changing throughout and, as your child develops, his/her safety and special needs must be addressed in any fitness activity you incorporate into your lifestyle. The New York Hospital for Special Surgery has a very informative article pertaining to pregnancy and exercise. It can be found at: www.hss.edu/conditions_exercise-during-pregnancy.asp.
Eating For 1 and 1/8
It is absolutely necessary for women to eat more during their pregnancy. The growing life inside has nutritional and caloric needs that must be met in addition to the mother’s. That being said, “eating for two” should not be taken as license to eat twice as much food. The average weight of a newborn child is about 12.5 % of the average weight of an American woman. They just don’t need that many calories. In fact, excessive weight gain will increase the risk to your long-term health and the health of your baby as well. Guidelines for healthy weight-gain during pregnancy suggest eating about 300 more calories per day during pregnancy. That doesn’t mean a mom-to-be shouldn’t indulge her cravings. If anyone was ever entitled to a bowl of Rocky Road and potato chips, it’s the expectant mother. Just keep it sane. Guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy are available at any of the reference links listed below.
Take it Off
You will probably never lose more weight in one day than on the day you have your baby. Between the baby, the placenta, the amniotic fluid and the extra blood supply, you will probably lose somewhere between 16 and 20 pounds. Over the next few weeks you may also lose a fair bit of weight as retained fluid is processed out of your body. After that, weight loss will slow down or plateau if you don’t take care to manage your food intake and start exercising again.
The key to returning to your pre-pregnancy weight and fitness is the same as it was for keeping fit and managing your weight before you got pregnant – proper nutrition and exercise. In the case of new mothers though, exercise and nutrition have to be approached with modifications that incorporate the nutritional needs of the nursing mother and baby, and complete healing of the mother’s traumatized body. The key idea here is, take it slow.
Here are a few basic guidelines for restoring your physical health and fitness after delivery:
- Wait about 6 weeks or so to allow your body to heal from the trauma of childbirth before adopting a new fitness regimen.
- Get cleared by your physician beforehand.
- Start slow and build gradually.
- Get enough sleep – sleep deprivation will leave you too tired to exercise and make you more likely to snack and eat fattening foods.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Don’t diet – your child needs a well-nourished mom with the strength and energy to take care of him/her. If you are nursing, weight loss diets can be harmful to your child and should be avoided.
- Eat fresh, whole-foods cooked at home with a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats.
- Avoid fast foods, processed foods, sugary drinks and sweets.
- Be patient – nine months of weight gain and hormonal changes followed by the physical stress of delivery takes its toll on your body. It will take time for complete healing and restoration to occur.
- Stick with it – following a lifestyle of good, whole food nutrition and moderate exercise will lead you back to your previous health and vitality in the time it takes to give you lasting results.