Most people are familiar with the expression 'eating for two', but like many sayings, this should be taken with a pinch of salt. During pregnancy your body will be working incredibly hard to build a tiny human being, but your calorie needs remain largely unchanged.
We look at how much pregnancy gain is normal, and why it’s important to keep chocolate cravings in check.
Step away from the biscuit tin!
Despite what you may have heard, most women don’t actually need to up their calorie intake in the first six months of pregnancy – meaning the average woman should still aim to eat around 2,000 calories per day.
In the last three months of your pregnancy, you do need a little more sustenance, but only to the tune of 200 calories a day according to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists – which equates to two slices of toast or a couple of bananas.
That slab of chocolate fudge cake you’ve got your eye on? It’s probably loaded with about twice that – so think carefully before you indulge.
Quality not quantity
It’s hardly surprising that many women use pregnancy as an excuse to gorge on normally-forbidden treats. However, despite temptation, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to what you put into your body during this time.
“It’s important to get a balance of all the major food groups to provide all the nutrients needed for the growth and development of the baby,” explains Jenny Lord, qualified midwife and blogger at Midwife and Life.
How much weight will I gain?
Many describe pregnant women as ‘blooming’ but those of us feel pretty uncomfortable in the late stages of pregnancy. As well as gaining a bump, your body will begin to store more fat in preparation for breastfeeding. “Weight gain varies from woman to woman,” explains Lord. “But on average a woman will gain about 10-14kg. In addition, if a woman is overweight to start with, they may gain more than the average.”
Whilst some of this weight will be lost after giving birth (for starters, your baby will probably weigh around 3kg), some of it is likely to linger for a few months after the birth. Although it’s important to avoid excess weight gain, it’s also important to accept the bodily changes that come with pregnancy
To help you stay on track, your midwife will usually calculate your BMI at your first appointment, and may give you specific advice, particularly if you are slightly underweight or overweight at the start of pregnancy.
Risks of excess weight gain
As well as wanting to get back in our jeans after pregnancy, there are many other reasons why weight gain during pregnancy should be kept to a minimum.
Excess weight gain can lead to high blood pressure and even complications during labour, so it’s important to be careful.
Women should also “avoid high sugar foods as this, along with excess weight, could result in gestational diabetes,” explains Lord. Gestational diabetes can lead to potential complications such as high birth weight, or excess fluid.
Gaining too little can also be problematic, as it might mean that your baby will have a low birth weight. Your midwife or doctor may monitor your weight during pregnancy and will be able to give specific advice relating to your circumstances and your risk of different complications.
Getting enough exercise
Whilst high-impact exercise and pushing yourself too hard are not a good idea during pregnancy -and trampolining is definitely off the cards - taking gentle exercise can be beneficial both for yourself and for your baby. In fact, exercise may relieve back-ache and constipation, as well as keeping you fit and well – which will help when it comes to labour.
There are a range of exercise classes available for women during and after pregnancy, so consult your local leisure centre. Alternatively, there are many options to work out from the comfort of your own home, using a DVD or streaming an exercise class.
However, to ensure you choose the right exercise for your needs, have a chat with your midwife or doctor before taking up anything new.
Keeping it in proportion
Whilst from the outside, pregnancy can seem like a glorious time in which women bloom, those of us who’ve struggled with some of pregnancy’s less wonderful effects know that growing a human can be a stressful experience. So although it’s important to keep an eye on the scales, it’s important to keep a sense of perspective.
Stress during pregnancy can also have a negative impact, so although we need to watch our diet, it’s important too to relax and enjoy the journey as much as possible. “There’s no need to count calories,” agrees Lord. “Just maintain a healthy, balanced diet.”
You may not be able to eat for two, but everyone deserves a treat now and again!