Brought to you by Mother and Baby.
Between cravings and the old "eating for two" mentality, it's hard enough trying to keep extra kilos from creeping on when you're pregnant. Then Christmas and its endless eating rolls around... Here's how to look after yourself!
Pretty much everyone overeats at Christmas: it seems that between all the get-togethers, work parties and last-minute festive fun, we're unable to NOT eat ourselves silly when all that great food is around. But it's important to not use the festive season as an excuse to overeat when you're pregnant - it can harm your health as well as that of your unborn baby.
The ideal gain
In short, there is no "perfect" number you should see when you step on the scales. Having said that, as women burn off fat at different rates, you should gain about 9-14kg during your pregnancy. If you gain more than this, it means your body is storing excess fat or fluid, which may complicate your pregnancy and labour, or cause you health problems after you've given birth.
Where it all goes
At the end of your pregnancy, your weight is roughly distributed as follows:
- Baby - 3.4kg
- Extra blood - 1.5kg
- Breasts - 0.5kg
- Fat - 3.5kg
- Placenta - 0.6kg
- Uterus - 0.9kg
- Amniotic fluid - 0.6kg
- Extra body fluid -1kg
TOTAL - 12kg
Changes in your appetite
Nurturing your growing baby puts some heavy demands on your energy levels. But although you'll need to increase your calorie intake, particularly towards the end of pregnancy, there's no need to eat for two. In fact, you can fulfill your extra needs with just an extra sandwich a day - hardly the Maccas combo deal you've been considering inhaling on the way home every day, right?
In the first trimester, your appetite should be the same, but it may be reduced in women who have morning sickness. During the second trimester you'll be putting on about 500g a week, and may notice an increase in appetite.
And in the third? Chances are you'll be gobbling everything in sight!
"It's during the last three months of pregnancy that your appetite usually increases," says Fiona Ford, a registered UK dietitian. "This is because your body has to work harder to maintain you and your baby, which means you're burning more calories, and your appetite adjusts accordingly."
The dangers of gaining too much
Being seriously overweight increases the likelihood of you having complications during pregnancy, including:
- being more prone to high blood pressure, which can, in turn, be an indicator for pre-eclampsia, a life-threatening pregnancy condition
- a higher chance of developing gestational diabetes
- putting more strain on your back and pelvis than normal
- being more prone to varicose veins
- making labour more difficult - larger women tend to be less mobile, which can mean a longer labour; if you need a caesarean, the surgeon will have more layers of fat to cut through, which may cause complications.
Need another reason to say no to that extra serving of cheesy pizza or plate of fried rice? Research shows that women who gain lots of weight during pregnancy are more likely to retain extra weight in the long term.
What you should aim to eat
Quality, rather than quantity, is the key word for a healthy pregnancy eating plan that won't have you piling on the pounds. The main thing is to cut back on sugary and fatty foods and eat fresh fruit and vegies.
- Drinks lots of water. It will fill you up, and it's good for you, too!
- Avoid processed foods, such as sausages and pies, as they tend to have a high fat content and are not particularly nutritious.
- Reduce the fat content of food you eat by half.
- Use low-fat products (such as yoghurts) and drink skimmed milk - both contain about half the fat of full-fat versions.
- Cut down on excess sugar by drinking fewer fizzy drinks, and eating less sweets, cakes and biscuits.
- Eat more starchy foods like bread, potatoes and pasta. They'll fill you up and give you a long-lasting energy boost.
- If you're a vegetarian or vegan, make sure you eat iron-rich foods such as chickpeas and lentils regularly, and drink a glass of fresh orange juice with each meal to aid iron absorption.
A warning: avoid dieting
Although being overweight isn't a great idea while you're expecting, pregnancy is a really bad time to go on a diet. Even though your baby will carry on growing and developing, taking all the goodness he needs from you, he may not grow as well as he would have done if your diet is lacking in nutrients.
For more great stories on pregnancy and motherhood go to Mother and Baby.