Wendy Powell

Pregnancy Weight Gain. What’s a Healthy Measure?

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I’m often asked this “How much pregnancy weight gain is normal?”

How much is healthy? Or necessary? How much of the weight you’re putting on is ‘Baby Fat’…

But before we start worrying about how to lose it, how much pregnancy weight gain, is *average* pregnancy weight gain?

Bit of a disclaimer / stating the obvious here, but  every pregnancy is different. Some women will gain quite a bit more than average (3.5 stone / 50+ pounds / 23kg), while others gain much less (1 stone / 15 pounds / 7kg). And the whole point of an *average* is that most people lie one or other side of it. Right, am I covered? Phew.

Here’s some rather interesting facts about the average UK and US woman putting on weight in pregnancy.

According to the Department for Trade and Industry, the average U.K. woman is 5′ 3.8″ (162 centimeters) tall and weighs 147 pounds / 10 stone 7lb /66.7 kilograms. The average U.S. woman is also 5′ 3.8″ (163 cm) tall, and weighs 163 pounds / 74 kg. Your pre-pregnancy weight, age, race and height will all influence how much weight you gain during pregnancy (there is also the small matter of what you eat, but we’ll leave it as ‘all being equal’ for the moment!).

A healthy pregnancy weight gain for Ms Average might be around 30lb / 2 stones / 13.6kg. Bear in mind that in reality there could be significant fluctuations in either direction. So after all that math, um, the answer is: it depends.

Please do not get hung up weight gain charts… as you can see from above, average covers quite a range! But here’s the bit we often forget – most of your pregnancy weight gain is NOT FAT!

Your pregnancy weight gain is made up of the following (with approximate weights):

• Your baby (doh) (6-8 lbs)

• Placenta (1.5 lbs)

• Amniotic fluid (2 lbs)

• Uterine enlargement (2 lbs)

• Extra blood volume (3-4 lbs)

• Extra breast tissue (1-2 lb)

• Extra body fluid / water  (4 lbs)

• Fat (roughly 7 lbs)

So the necessary extra FAT stores of pregnancy account for around 7 pounds / just over 3 Kilos of that ‘average’ 30 pounds /13.6 kilos weight gain we talked about.

Of course, putting on weight in pregnancy is healthy and simply means your baby is growing well.  It took 9 months to steadily go on, and so you must expect that it will take at least that long, in conjunction with eating healthily and staying active, to steadily come off. You’ve heard it before, but losing fat for the long term needs to be done sensibly and gradually.

How much pregnancy weight gain is ‘baby fat‘?

The body builds up extra fat stores during pregnancy and uses 300-500 calories of these a day for as long as you’re exclusively breastfeeding. This is pretty much the same additional nutritional requirement as your body needed throughout pregnancy. So a healthy diet, plenty of fluids, minimal or no processed foods and moderate activity will provide the calories that both you and your baby need.

You really don’t need to build up any more fat stores, so once the extra maternal and breastfeeding fat stores are no longer needed, I’m afraid there is no such thing as ‘baby fat’, there is only ‘fat fat’.  Fat is just fat, and it sits on top of muscle. Fat and muscle are completely different types of tissue, and one cannot turn into the other.

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