The truths about pregnancy and weight

This is a collaborative post

As a woman, when we fall pregnant, we pretty much know that we are going to put on some weight. We don’t know how much and we don’t know where it will go, but we do know that our body is going to change shape.

I was pretty lucky in both of my pregnancies, as I didn’t really put on much weight other than on my bump. Both times I didn’t really look pregnant from the back and then when I turned around, there was this huge ball of a bump in front of me! They say that ball shape bumps are a sign of boys and in my case it most definitely was.

I think that when it comes to our bodies, the mindset of most mums-to-be is that what happens during pregnancy, doesn’t really matter too much. As long as the baby is healthy and we aren’t gaining weight at an unhealthy rate, then that’s what’s important.

However, the world — and particularly pop culture — likes to talk A LOT about the weight gain that women experience while pregnant. Celebrity magazines seem to be outright obsessed with the concept, furiously monitoring a woman’s figure throughout the time she’s pregnant. So while the subject of pregnancy weight gain may not be particularly important to most mothers-to-be, such discussions definitely rear their ugly heads time and time again — and it’s a real bugbear of mine.

But why do I care? Well, it’s because along with the general conversation about how their body is changing, they often get an awful lot of things wrong. There are a number of myths associated with both pregnancy weight gain and the loss of the baby weight and they love to mention them regularly.

You need to “eat for two”

How many times have we heard that being said to us? I know in my first pregnancy, I thought that was the case. Until I found that it has next to no backing by the scientific community. While women should increase their caloric intake during their pregnancy, the idea they need to eat double (or even close to double) their usual amount is untrue.

Most experts believe an extra 200-300 calories per day is more than sufficient to support both mother and baby during pregnancy. This means that you should aim to eat around 2300 calories in total, per day, during your pregnancy.

You shouldn’t lose weight during a pregnancy

If you are usually of a healthy weight, then losing weight during pregnancy could be somewhat concerning, and you should speak to your health care team about what you are experiencing. In this scenario, this is one myth that is very much confirmed.

However, if you were somewhat overweight prior to pregnancy, losing weight during it could be beneficial for both mother and baby. It is, however, important to note that this should only be done with the assistance of a qualified medical team and never something you do without proper medical supervision.

You shouldn’t exercise during pregnancy

Do you remember the furore when Paula Radcliffe ran a marathon at 7 months pregnant? Ok, she is super fit and an experienced runner, so her body was well used to it – so whilst it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to suddenly start running marathons, some gentle exercise is actively encouraged by medical experts. Yoga, walking, and swimming are all popular recommendations for expectant mothers, so provided your doctor is in agreement, these are all pursuits that are good to engage with throughout your pregnancy. Frankly, given the wealth of agreement across the medical profession as to the benefits of exercise during pregnancy, the enduring longevity of the “don’t exercise while pregnant!” myth is rather startling.

If you hear someone telling you that exercising during pregnancy is bad for the baby, it might be worth reminding them of a very simple fact: Serena Williams, tennis superstar, won the Australian Open while she was eight weeks pregnant. She then went on to have a healthy baby girl; this story, above all else, makes it clear that exercise and pregnancy can indeed mix!

Breastfeeding will make the weight “fall off”

When it comes to losing the baby weight, there is one thing that women hear again and again: if they breastfeed, they will lose the weight they gained during the pregnancy in no time at all.

There is a half-truth behind this tale. Breastfeeding does expend more calories, to the tune of around 500 calories per day. This reduction in calories could potentially help with weight loss, but it’s also worth noting that breastfeeding is inherently sedentary. This means that, for most women, the net calorie benefit of breastfeeding is negated by the fact they are not as physically active as they usually are. Unless of course you are on your second, third (or more) child and then you don’t get a chance to actually sit down – I tell myself that the combination of my breastfeeding and school runs very much allow for that triple chocolate doughnut from the bakers!

There isn’t really anything that can make the baby weight “fall off”, unfortunately. A combination of exercise and dedicated diet methods will help new mums to lose weight in a healthy, controlled way that is sustainable; which is far preferable to short-term fixes, after all.

You’ll lose the baby weight within three months

This idea sounds outright absurd, but it’s something that you will hear time and time again. For one thing, those celebrity magazines who monitor the waistline of any pregnant celebrity, appear to be deeply shocked if a woman doesn’t lose her baby weight immediately. I remember how there was a real media focus on Kate Middleton when she appeared in front of the cameras balancing baby George on her still there but smaller baby bump. They didn’t seem to comprehend that most women still have their bumps for weeks after giving birth! 

Back in the real world, three months is far too little. For one thing, women who have had a C-section are advised to avoid exercise for at least six weeks after giving birth (and even after 6 weeks there was no way I was ready), which reduces their potential timescale for weight loss down even further. Furthermore, while it may be physically possible to lose all the baby weight in such a short space of time, is it preferable?

The answer to this question is a resounding “no” right? New mums have other things to worry about in those first three months, which are commonly referred to as the “fourth trimester” due to how huge a change they represent. Given all of the adjustments that new mums are having to make during the first few months of their baby’s life, the expectation that baby weight should all be lost 12 weeks post-partum is rather bizarre. 

It’s important that mums feel empowered to make their own choices about their weight loss and its speed. Expectations from other people are not remotely helpful, so hopefully, this is one myth that will eventually be forgotten.

While a huge number of myths can swirl about pregnancy, weight gain, and weight loss, it’s important to remember that every pregnancy is very individual. All that mums should have to focus on is two very special areas: their health, and the health of their baby.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: