Another day, another report to make you feel like you’re not doing a good job being pregnant. Just what every expectant mother needs, right?
Pregnancy and weight gain (usually) go hand-in-hand. How much you gain, however, isn’t quite so set in stone. There are different recommended amounts based on the weight you start off at before your pregnancy begins — those who are underweight are recommended to gain more than those of average weight, and those who are overweight are recommended to gain less.
But … This doesn’t always go according to plan.
Morning sickness, food aversions, rabid cravings, your ability to get up and move around, and well, life in general can get in the way of having a “perfect” pregnancy weight gain. As a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report outlines, many of us fall short of the target. In fact, they found that 20 percent of pregnant women gain less weight than recommended and 47 percent gain more. This leaves only a third of women who actually gain the “appropriate” amount of weight during their pregnancy.
“Gestational weight gain outside the [Institute of Medicine] recommendations has important short- and long-term health consequences for mothers and infants,” the CDC said. “Whereas, inadequate GWG increases the risk for low birth weight; excessive GWG increases the risk for macrosomia, postpartum weight retention, future maternal obesity, and possibly future childhood obesity.”
While gaining too much (or too little) does have potential health consequences for both mother and child, it’s far too easy to paint all women who gain a lot of weight with the same broad brush. I, personally, was very lucky — I always managed to stay within the recommended limits during each of my four pregnancies (despite my propensity to shovel down fun-sized candy bars), but I know that is not the experience everyone has.
So don’t feel guilty if you weren’t able to stay active enough during your pregnancy due to symphysis pubis dysfunction, or if you barfed all day long and weren’t able to eat enough to gain any weight at all. Or if despite careful meal planning, you blossomed a little more than you expected.
That’s not to say that the results of this study should be overlooked, but instead of letting it breed resentment, unhappiness, and guilt, maybe we can use it to inspire better outcomes. Perhaps care providers could be galvanized to provide free nutrition classes or prenatal yoga classes? Or moms-to-be could use this data to make a positive change here and there (including requesting needed help for morning sickness or physical pain that makes it hard to exercise) that will result in positive news at the monthly weigh-in (and in turn, better health for her and her baby).
Above all, don’t let this news depress you. Instead, look forward to making changes that can help you better meet your goals.