Women's Fitness Series: Pregnancy Healthy Weight Gain

pregnancy healthy weight gain frugal fitness

Contributed by Michele Gonzalez,  wife, mother, ultrarunner, and FitFluential Ambassador. A former Captain in the US Army, she is now a stay at home mom who is currently training for a sub 3:10 marathon and her first Ironman (NYC – Aug 2012). Her blog, NYCrunningmama, focuses on her training and races, as well as pregnancy and motherhood. To learn more, follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or her blog. 
I had another post planned for today, but after I received an email from a reader yesterday (that I have not been able to get out of my head), I felt this issue needed to be addressed and discussed.
Below is a quick synopsis of the email I received (I want to keep her anonymous):

Reader X is pregnant with her first child. She’s an extremely active athlete (biked 100 miles just before she got pregnant), petite woman (she would get turned away if she tried to donate blood), who has continued to eat healthy and remain active during the early part of her pregnancy. She gained 10 pounds in her first trimester and although she was initially okay with this weight gain, is now distraught because her doctor gave her a hard time about it at her last appointment.
I briefly talked about my weight gain during my first pregnancy in a previous post.  I am not ashamed to admit that I gained 9 pounds by week 10. I was eating healthy, running, and maintaining my usual active lifestyle (occasionally biking, walking, doing the elliptical and strength training).  The numbers on the scale were going up and I was starting to freak out.  I had known my doctor for most of my life (I went to high school with his daughter) and therefore, he knew my lifestyle and calmed me down.  He told me over and over again that every woman’s body handles pregnancy differently – and the quick weight gain was my body’s way of preparing itself for the next 7 months and then for labor and delivery.  The weight gain was primarily in my thighs, hips, and butt – the areas that would receive most of the pressure from the pregnancy and L&D.  My doctor was right – over the next 7 months, I gained a total of 16 pounds – I went into labor having gained 25 pounds (which, according to most pregnancy sources, is on the low end of the 25-35 range for a woman of my BMI/weight).
It’s easy now to look back and be okay with the high weight gain in the first few weeks since I know how the rest of pregnancy ended up for me.  But at the time, I was worried and confused.  Why did ALL of the books and online sources I found give low recommended weight gain in the 1st trimester?  Some even said most women could lose weight in the first couple of months.   I blew these numbers out of the water and it was hard NOT to have these numbers constantly in my head:
BabyCenter: 1-5 pounds (total)
WebMD: 2-4 pounds (total)
American Pregnancy: 1-4.5 pounds (total)
Mayo Clinic: only a few pounds (total)
As a caveat, all websites do have a blurb about how the weight gain is only recommended, but since I gained double what any of them had suggested before I even was out of the 1st trimester,  I was concerned I was on the road to gaining too much weight.   I was worried for me and my baby’s health – numerous sources indicated that:
 …women who gain too much weight during pregnancy are at a higher risk for having a cesarean delivery…and the babies of women who gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy may be too large at birth, which can cause labor complications for both mom and baby. 
I understand that there has to be some guidance for females, but I, personally, found the information detrimental.  I was not overweight to start pregnancy nor did I sit on the couch and eat potato chips and Bon-Bons all day.  I had an average BMI and was exercising six days/week for 45-90 min/day.  So was it really terrible that I gained 10 pounds right off the bat?
 If my doctor hadn’t been so knowledgeable about my physical condition, activity, and overall lifestyle, he may have given me a hard time – just like Reader X got from her doctor.  My doctor, who had been delivering babies for almost 40 years, had told me that if I’m eating healthy and staying physically active, then high weight gain early on in pregnancy is likely my body’s way of preparing for the rest of pregnancy and childbirth – and NOT to stress or worry about it.
Every woman’s body is different as is the way her body responds to pregnancy.
It seems like all the information out there causes too many females to get wrapped around what the scale says during pregnancy (especially early on) rather than HOW they feel, what their vitals are indicating, and how their baby is doing.  

If you are staying active and healthy, does it really matter how many lbs you initially put on?  

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