Treat yourself to a healthier pregnancy

The verdict is in: it's completely normal to put on some weight and occasionally cave in to cravings - but moderation is the key.

Let’s get real. Pregnancy is not an easy ride for many mummies-to-be, and on some days you may feel like you’ve had a wild night on a party boat. During my own pregnancy, when I was crippled with morning sickness, I craved junk food. Just the idea of kale smoothies and chickpea salads would have me gagging and hightailing it for the bathroom. 
 
But is this ok? Here’s the lowdown on pregnancy weight gain, and how you can stay healthy during and after birth. 

All things in moderation

Bupa National Medical Director Dr Tim Ross says, “It’s OK to eat a little more than normal because your body and baby need nutrients to grow, and are doing so at a rapid rate.”

But it’s also important not to overindulge as it can sometimes lead to complications such as high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. 

However, Dr Ross reminds us that eating ‘a little more’ doesn’t mean that it’s okay to have two full-sized plates of pasta for dinner! Instead, try adding a few more healthy snacks to a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables and proteins.

Morning sickness

For women battling morning sickness, start by swapping those highly processed snacks for some bland foods such as multigrain crackers or dry toast. This can help settle your stomach. Also try eating smaller meals more often, and sitting upright for a while after eating. Some women also find adding ginger to food or sucking on sour foods like lemons can help.

Cravings

Dr Ross says it’s OK to give in to cravings occasionally. But having too much of any one food each day is not a good option, as it could lead to eating too much saturated fat, salt, sugar or energy, and limit the range of nutrients you are taking in, which are needed to keep you and your baby healthy. 

“I’m about moderation and being sensible. Bowing down to the odd craving now and then isn’t going to do any long-term harm as long as the rest of your diet is reasonably healthy. 

Just be careful of added salt, sugars and processed fats; they are the villains,” he says.

For example, if you’re craving some ice-cream or a milkshake, one helping occasionally isn’t going to hurt – but you could go for a healthier option such as a small tub of plain yoghurt with fresh fruit, or a glass of skim milk. Or why not try making your own ‘healthier’ milkshake at home, using fresh or frozen fruit to add a hit of sweetness and flavour.
pregnant lady eating chips

Keeping it real

It’s a good idea to toss aside those gossip mags that often show svelte celebrities snapped in their designer clothes with a barely-there baby bump. 

Dr Ross says celebrities are often blessed with an entourage of helpers, particularly after the birth when the race is on for those post-baby-weight photos.

“Most of us do not have the time and wealth to be personally trained and trimmed back to our pre-pregnancy size within four weeks of birth.”

In reality, he says, every person is different and will gain different amounts of weight during their pregnancy. Therefore, a very tall person may gain more than a shorter person. That old rule of thumb about gaining between 10 and 12 kilos is out.

Dr Ross says it comes down instead to your pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI). BMI is determined by dividing your weight by your height (in metres) squared or to save time check out our online BMI calculator here. 

As a general guide, if your pre-pregnancy BMI was between:

18.5 and 24.9, look to gain between 11.5kg and 16kg
25 and 29.9 look to gain between 7kg and 11.5kg
30 or above look to gain only between 5kg and 9kg.
However, if you’re expecting multiple bundles of joy then you’re likely to gain more!

Look after yourself

The key thing is to make sure your health, and that of your baby, remains top priority during and after your pregnancy. Stay away from fad diets and go for healthy lifestyle habits instead, including eating nutritious food, doing suitable physical activity, and getting as much sleep as you can. 
And be patient – losing any weight gained in pregnancy will take time. Even when you reach a healthy weight, your post-baby body may not look as it did before, as weight may have distributed itself differently. 
Focus instead on what your body can do and has done, on maintaining those healthy lifestyle habits, and soon you will be radiating that pregnancy glow, and of course kissing the rosy cheeks of your new bundle of joy. 
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