Eating for two?

How you fuel your body is always important and during pregnancy those nutrients are needed to support both you and your growing baby. Contrary to popular belief, however, there’s no actual need to eat for two.

It’s only in the final three months of your pregnancy that you need any extra calories (only 200 extra per day according to current guidance) and most women find that they unconsciously adjust their eating habits to do this anyway.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet throughout your pregnancy (where morning sickness permits it!) plays an important role in both your baby’s development and in maintaining a healthy weight gain, which has consequences for both you and baby. In a society where obesity and BMI levels are on the rise, so are related instances of interventions during birth, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, high birth weights and other complications.

Whilst pregnancy isn’t a time to overeat, it equally isn’t a time for dieting and restricting calories either, as this can impact upon your baby’s growth and development, as well as having potential health consequences for you too. Consequently, lots of women tend to ask how much weight they should put on during pregnancy. Like most pregnancy related questions, however, the answer is “it depends.”

It depends on lots of factors and is heavily influenced by your weight/BMI pre-pregnancy, but to give you some idea, most pregnant women gain between 10kg and 12.5kg (22lb to 26lb) during pregnancy, putting on most of the weight after week 20. 

Whilst this sounds like a lot, on average, just over a third of your extra weight will come from your baby, the placenta and amniotic fluid. And an average breakdown of this weight is typically something like this…

  • 27% is baby
  • 10% is increased blood volume
  • 10% is additional fluid in your body
  • 7% is due to the growth in the muscle layer of your uterus
  • 6% is your placenta
  • 6% if amniotic fluid
  • 3% is due to your increased breasts
  • 31% is stored fat, quite deliberately by your body, to give you energy for breastfeeding

Unless you have specific reason to be concerned, my advice would be to not worry about your weight gain during pregnancy and to instead focus on eating well wherever you can. So, more specifically:

  • eat lots of fresh fruit & vegetables (which is helpful for constipation too) and avoid sugary and processed foods as much as you can – planning ahead tends to be the best way to achieve this
  • don’t deny your cravings, but do try and balance them out with healthier choices most of the time. Having said that, if your morning sickness means that you can only keep down certain foods, absolutely go with it
  • your body is busy growing another human and so starchy carbs can be really helpful for energy levels (and quite often are more appealing if you’re feeling nauseous) but try choosing wholegrain options over white
  • stay hydrated

If you’re worried about your weight before or during pregnancy, please do speak to you midwife or GP for advice and support.

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