Pregnancy comes with many apparent physical changes in an expectant mom’s body. While pregnancy is often celebrated, and rightly so, the fact is that it does cause pain and discomfort to a woman. Some of the pregnancy symptoms may cease trimester-wise or after birth – like nausea, morning sickness, pigmentation, constipation, etc. However, some changes may take a lot of time to return to normal condition or do not change at all- like weight gain, hair fall, stretch marks, etc. And, gaining excessive weight during pregnancy is probably one of the things that scare most pregnant mothers right at the onset.
There may be a lot of factors that decide how much weight you might gain during your pregnancy. Your family history, past illnesses, your current lifestyle before conceiving and so on. I’ve personally known a friend who had put on just about 11 kilos during her first pregnancy. The first time around, almost her entire pregnancy went without major symptoms, not even nausea. Now that she’s pregnant for the second time, a good 2 years after her first, she says things have been different. She has already gained up to 7 kilos while still being in the middle of her second trimester. One of the reasons, she says, is that she’s experiencing excessive nausea making her rely on salty snacks. The weight gain is also making her stress out more.
I had a different experience in my case. I had followed a diligent diet throughout my pregnancy. Based on my BMI, my ideal weight-gain was calculated at the hospital. With severe nausea that lasted for nearly 5 months, salted crackers and chips seemed to be the only option to stay put. I had consciously kept way from certain foods while also keeping a strict eye on the weighing scale. Eventually, when I gave birth to my son, I had barely put on extra 10 kilos. However, I failed miserably at my attempts to breastfeed my baby. After trying for 3 weeks in a row, I finally gave in to formula milk. The experience left me in a downward spiral emotionally because I constantly kept blaming myself for having failed as a mother. In the midst of all this, of course, my weight gain remained static. At each follow-up visit, my doctor as well as those nurses who I got into random conversations with, kept reminding me that had I breastfed my son, I’d have probably lost the pregnancy weight by now.
As if these humiliating pieces of advice weren’t rubbing enough salt into my wounds, I came across a study that had its own take on pregnancy weight gain. According to the study, nearly 50% of women gain excessive weight during pregnancy whereas 23% of them do not gain enough weight. The solution to this problem provided by the study’s researchers was that pregnant women need to be given more information and told about accurate weight-gain targets (1). The researchers felt that pregnant women were not informed enough or weighed enough during pregnancy! Like, really??
In this age of social media, everyone is obsessed about how their body looks, pregnant or not. There are dime a dozen apps that give you a detailed report of your diet and ideal weight gain in just once click. In this atmosphere of information overload, do the researchers really feel that women don’t have enough information about pregnancy weight gain? This very suggestion points toward the ignorance of the researchers about a few basics. If 50% of pregnant women are doing something wrong, then common sense demands that we question the criteria that have been used to measure this rather than the pregnant women themselves.
As it is, pregnant women are subjected to unfair judgment based on their weight-gain on a day-to-day basis. They are made to cover their bumps by wearing unflattering clothes, mocked if they show early, and often made to skip family functions and gatherings in order to avoid embarrassment. Such studies and advice might only go on to add to their misery. It is not important how much weight you might gain during your pregnancy. What’s important is your good health as well as your baby’s well-being. The rest can keep their insulting advice and prejudiced notions to themselves!