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Weight Gain During Pregnancy

#pregnancy weight gain via @chgdiapers

A month after my first child was born, I was in a heap of tears & clothing after discovering that my pre-pregnancy “fat” jeans wouldn’t even go over my thighs. I started out at a healthy weight, though I was carrying a bit more than I would have liked. I had gained 50 pounds (much of it water weight since I lost 30 pounds within a few weeks) and I was determined to do better with my next pregnancy. Little did I know that alas, I was not one to gain 20 pounds during pregnancy.

Throughout my pregnancy, I saw many male OBs, and each one harped on my weight at every appointment. I scrutinized everything I ate, thinking that I shouldn’t have eaten that handful of potato chips or whatever “treat” I’d indulged in. When I went over everything I was eating, the OB suggested that I cut out my snack (an apple or nectarine one or two times per day) because “pregnant women’s bodies love fruit.” I was nervous every time I stepped on the scale, trying to make my appointments in the morning, choose the lightest clothing possible and not drinking anything before hand to avoid the “tsk tsk” I was bound to get. I didn’t know what to do. I was eating a balanced diet, drinking only water and my only craving was taco salads. When I had them I made sure to eat mostly veggies & only a bit of meat. I ended up losing all the weight and then some (another post on that is to come!) and was in the best shape of my life by the time I became pregnant with my second child. In fact, I had intentionally gained about 7 pounds at my (favorite, female) OB’s recommendation, just to see if my lower body fat was causing my infertility issues.

I was bound & determined not to gain as much weight this time, and literally tracked every morsel I ate. I looked back and thought maybe all my gain with my daughter was from my occasional treats, and after learning more about nutrition, I realized that the whole grain bread I ate for lunch every day was higher in calories than I thought at the time. I ate tons of salads (sans calorie laden dressings and toppings) and my one indulgence was steak. 4-6 oz of lean steak about twice per month. I was consuming the correct number of calories to maintain my weight and growing baby, and continued to stay active, running 4 miles several times per week into my 2nd trimester. Still, the pounds piled on. I mostly saw one of two female OBs that I really liked, but towards the end I wanted to make sure I’d seen all OBs who could potentially deliver my baby. Saw a male OB and again, the “tsk tsk” ing began and the paranoia renewed. At my next appointment I expressed my concern to the OB (who I love, who delivered my son, and who I continue to see for checkups) and she chuckled and said in not so many words that male OBs tend to be like that. That if I gained it “the right way” I would lose it, that she simply isn’t concerned unless there is a flag like a huge gain in a short amount of time, and that harping on weight only serves to make women upset.

I gave birth to my son after having gained about 45 pounds (the photo above of me in black was at 40w 6d in the hospital parking lot in labor, about 3ish hours before he was born.) The weight came off slowly but surely and when my son was 22 months old I was 2 lbs from my pre-pregnancy weight (about 9 from the weight before I had intentionally gained pounds.) That’s when I became pregnant with his brother! As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I tend to hang on to weight as long as I am nursing. My milk dwindled and disappeared rather quickly, so I think that 5ish lb loss offset some of my gain with baby #3.

For baby #3 I did midwifery care and self-care and I was worried that at my 10ish week appointment (my first one) I had already gained 4 pounds! Thankfully, the midwife and assistant worked wonders to ease my mind, spending an hour or more going over my history. We concluded that this is just what I gain. I’m eating right and staying active, gaining the weight, and losing it easily. No worries. I’m not a “textbook” 15-35 pound gainer. Big whoop!

With baby #3 I again tracked my intake, and since I was going a more natural route this time, I paid extra attention to my diet. I ate TONS of veggies, dark leafy greens (vitamin K) and little to no “treats.” I had gained 40 pounds at the time of his birth. Within a year I had lost all but the last 5, and am still hanging on to 3-5 now that my son is 22 1/2 months (and still nurses 24/7!) I got down to my pre-pregnancy weight twice – once when I had the flu and again when I had food poisoning. No thanks. 😉 I am confident that I will lose the last 5 as my son gradually cuts back on nursing.

In hindsight, I am angry with myself that I let doctors give me a complex about my weight, and that I spent so much time worrying about it. Be active, eat a balanced, healthy diet and indulge your cravings in moderation. (and by moderation I mean a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s now & again, not a pint every night hee hee.)

Some women gain a lot, some women gain a little (I’ve had friends who were paranoid about the reverse – not gaining “enough.”) Some lose it quickly, some don’t. Restricting calories is not a good idea for a pregnant or nursing mama. Put it on “the right way” and it will come off!

Have you struggled with gaining “too much” or “not enough” weight during pregnancy?

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Maria is an aspiring "fit mom" of 3 children, writing about cloth diapers, going green, and her life as a single mom. Maria works with many companies within the cloth diaper industry and beyond, providing social media management, product development, and other services.
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  • Michelle L
    November 6, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    With my first baby I gained about 30 lbs and he was born at 9lbs 8oz. Whenever people found out how big he was at birth the first question was always “how much did you gain” followed by “did you have gestational diabetes.” I became really paranoid that it was my fault that my son was so large (for my body) that I required a c-section. I felt like everyone, including doctors, was insinuating that my weight gain was to blame. When my son was only 4 months old I became pregnant again, and since I hadn’t lost the baby weight from the prior pregnancy I watched my diet very carefully and only gained 8 lbs that time (I was overweight so that was considered okay). I delivered my daughter via a very healing VBAC weighing a hearty 8lbs 6oz. Both of my kids are still greater than 90th percentile in height and weight, so I know now that I just grow big babies! My daughter just had her first birthday and I’m finally back to my pre-babies weight as of this week! 🙂

  • November 6, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    It’s sad how your medical professional made you feel. This post makes me all the more grateful for my (male) OB, who always praises my weight gain as “just right”. Not going to lie, after dealing with infertility for several years and constantly being told how messed up my body is, I love hearing that my body is doing things right! I’m almost 37 weeks and have gained about 33 pounds so far.

    I think every woman’s body handles weight gain in pregnancy differently, and the important thing should be that you are getting adequate nutrition. Sometimes doctors fixate on textbook numbers and have a hard time looking at the big picture.

  • November 6, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    I barely gained any weight during pregnancy. I lost 15 pounds in the first few months, then gained it back plus 5-10 more in the last few months. I was extremely sick during pregnancy. I ended up in the hospital once because I couldn’t keep water down and go so dehydrated I passed out. My doctor barely acknowledged it. She said there was nothing they could do. In the end, I was down past my pre-pregnancy weight a few days after I gave birth. I was 130 pre-pregnancy and 120 after I had the kid. Then I gained like 50 pounds due to birth control, but that’s a different story. ALL pregnancies are different!

  • November 6, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    I’ve been on both sides.
    I gained 15 with my daughter and then lost 22 by the time I was home from the hospital (2 days later). It took me 2 years to gain that 7 back.
    I started a few pounds heavier with my son, but was still 100% healthy (5’6″ and 130) and then gained 39 pounds. I lost 22 of it by 2 weeks postpartum and then struggled with the last 17 pounds. At 9 months post partum I cut back portions, that was it, no cutting our food at all and no exercise. In 8 weeks I lost 18.5 pounds.

    I started this pregnancy at 130 as well. I’m 30 weeks along now and as of 3 weeks ago am up 19 pounds. So I’m on track to gain 30-35 again. We’ll see what happens with this one.

  • christine k
    November 6, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    I gained a bunch too… I gained 50 lbs with my first, and 55lbs with my second… but both times I went into labour, i weighed the same (I weighed less when I got pregnant with #2). I was concerned about the weight gain not because I hated the number ( I really didn’t care ), but because I was concerned for my baby’s health. I’m about 13lbs heavier than I was when I got pregnant with #2 now (she’s 4 months now), so I am guessing I’m just one of those people who gains a LOT

  • Laura
    November 6, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    I think pregnancy weight gain is a difficult issue during an emotional time. I worried constantly that I was “messing up” my babies or that I would get gestational diabetes. With my first full-term pregnancy, I was overweight to begin with, after having a miscarriage and becoming very depressed. I gained 16 lbs total and had a healthy 8 lb, 7 oz boy. I went down to 20 lbs below my pre-pregnancy weight and had another miscarriage. Then I got pregnant again, at 20 lbs less than the first time, and gained 36 lbs. I had a healthy 8 lbs, 11 oz boy. Apparently my body just wants to be at that particular weight at the end of pregnancy. I have lost 26 lbs so far, 2 months post-partum, but my body always hangs onto about 10-15 lbs while I’m nursing babies. I don’t feel great about it, but I know the extra weight will go away slowly if I eat well and exercise. There’s enough to worry about during pregnancy – it would be nice if a doctor could look at the whole picture. Sorry about my novel. 🙂

  • November 6, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    I’m 15.5 weeks now and I’ve been worrying myself that I can’t gain ANYTHING. This wouldn’t normally concern me, but I’m pretty underweight to start. I lost a pound despite not having morning sickness, and my tummy is getting pretty big. People are noticing. I’m finally up one pound from my starting weight as of yesterday! Yay!

    My stupid pregnancy apps keep telling me I should have been gaining a pound per week since the second trimester started, so that was worrying me, but my OB told me today at my appt that everything looks perfectly fine and that I should eat when I’m hungry and not worry about overstuffing myself or bulking up on calories like I’ve been trying to do! She said as long as I’m eating, I should be perfectly OK, and that many women don’t start to gain til they’re 20-22 weeks! She’s the best.

  • November 6, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    I LOVED this post Maria. When I was pregnant with my first, I remember being so mad at my OB at my second appointment because I lost five pounds, and he kept grilling me on whether I was sick all the time or trying to diet. He did not believe me when I said, “I have not had ANY morning sickness, and I am NOT dieting. I’m eating when I’m hungry and trying to eat healthy.”

    I think at times, doctors need to BACK OFF. It’s wise to ask what a patient is eating, but don’t assume they’re lying or belittle that person when they tell you.

  • November 6, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Oh gosh. I am so grateful none of my docs said a word about my weight gain. I would have cried!.I gained over 50lbs each time while eating salad and hitting the gym. I pack on a lot of water.

  • Amye
    November 6, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    There are so many factors in the pregnancy wt gain its sad your doctors never brought that up. Increased blood volume, placenta, breast weight, amniotic fluid, ect. I have struggled with hyper emesis through all 3 and now my 4th pregnancy as little as I eat I still manage to gain about 30 pounds and I think that says alot about how wt is gained during pregnancy, most is the baby growing natural process

  • Tara
    November 6, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    You have wrote so many women’s stories here.

    For me it was the midwife in the practice who sent me into tears almost every time. I started my pregnancy at mere 90 lbs. very underweight for my height. In the beginning I couldn’t hold almost anything down, but I still gained weight. I was berated over and over again on what I shouldn’t be eating. She was sure I was eating everything under the sun. I wasn’t. She was extremely rude and condescending every time I had to see her. I dreaded each appointment.

    Never once did she take into account my son’s father was over 6 ft. Never once did she consider my son just might be large. Never once did she take into account I started out underweight. All she cared about was the magic 20-30lbs. I seriously grew to hate her.

    I gained around 40-45lbs with my pregnancy. My was born weighing 8lbs. 14 oz. He was 22 inches long. And his feet were bigger than the space provided to do foot prints on the hospital forms. He was a big boy. I lost all the weight I gained with pregnancy, aside from about 10lbs. within the 1st year.

    Not everyone fits into the nicely wrapped numbers in medical books. Some people will gain weight just because that is what their body does to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

    Thanks for writing this.

  • Laura B
    November 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve gained 21lbs at 34.5 weeks. I feel good about the way I look and I think that is more important than focusing on the number. My midwives gave me the recommendation of weight I should put on based on pre-pregnancy BMI and though I’m now 1lb over that with several weeks to go I’m not worried about it. I eat lots of protein, fruits, veggies and healthy fats. That’s all you can really do! And most importantly baby is healthy and my pregnancy is low risk.

  • Holli G.
    November 6, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    “In hindsight, I am angry with myself that I let doctors give me a complex about my weight, and that I spent so much time worrying about it. Be active, eat a balanced, healthy diet and indulge your cravings in moderation.”

    This was so me!! I feel like you wrote a biography about my pregnancies. Even though I am still pregnant (come on baby) I too fear the scale. Even though this time my male ob is okay with my weight gain but I do have to keep it as low as possible. I still have fear about it. My first male ob was exactly how you described the first one for you.

    I recently gained 4lbs in one week and then I went back the next and I went down 3. That 1st week I beat myself up a lot over those gained lbs. So thank you for writing this. Many woman face this problem and sometimes it is a silent one for them.

  • Maia G
    November 6, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Thank you. I really needed this right now! I am almost 18 weeks. I started at 140 and am now 130. My morning sickness wasn’t bad and my appetite hasn’t changed, so I’m not sure why I have lost weight. Thankfully my (male) OB is quite experienced and hasn’t mentioned any concern. Baby is on track, and that is all that matters to him. My mom was a 60lb-gainer in pregnancy, so I assumed I would gain tons too, but so far that is not the case (although I realize I still have many months to catch up)

    • Holli G.
      November 6, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      I too lose pounds and gain only after 5ish months. As long as baby is growing it is all good. And of course I am staying healthy too!

  • funkyfauna
    November 6, 2013 at 11:30 am

    With my son I initially lost like 8 lbs, even though I didn’t have any morning sickness. By the middle of my second trimester I was back at my pre-pregnancy weight and by the end gained about 18 lbs. Even with all that the NP at my OB’s office chastised me about my weight gain and told me to be careful when I was in my third trimester not to gain any more! I was so disheartened because this was the holiday season and I was denying myself any and all treats already, and was working out every day, including spinning 2x a week and swimming 1 mile twice a week. Within a week of having my baby I was down to my lowest pregnancy weight (8 lbs below my pre-pregnancy weight). Obviously everything was fine, but I hate that male medical professionals can be so thoughtless with their comments to pregnant women!

  • Erica Lynn
    November 6, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Thank you for this post, Maria! Super encouraging.

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