Thursday, 7th December 2023

Tracking your weight gain in pregnancy

Most pregnant women have a love-hate relationship with the scale, and this is quite understandable. After all, with pregnancy comes weight gain and it is wisdom to control it as much as you can.

Pregnant woman

Most pregnant women have a love-hate relationship with the scale, and this is quite understandable. After all, with pregnancy comes weight gain and it is wisdom to control it as much as you can. Which is why at every antenatal, in addition to checking your vitals like blood pressure, urine, and the likes, your health care provider would also check your weight and keep tracking it at every session? If there are major spikes or dips in the scale figures, that is you have gained a lot of weight in a few weeks, or lost more than is deemed normal even with morning sickness, they most likely would dig further into it and intervene. While tracking the weight gain is normal, however, obsession with the scale must be avoided.

‘I just weighed myself and realized I have gained 5kg already and I am still in first trimester…’
‘I just checked my weight and realized that I am losing weight in this pregnancy. Is this safe?’
First, how much weight is normal to be gained in pregnancy? Experts would put it at 25 to 35lbs for a single fetus and 35 to 45lbs and above for multiples. This weight is to be gained slowly and spread over the gestation period, increasing slightly as the pregnancy progresses up until the 40week mark, plus or minus two weeks. It is normal for one to go through first trimester without any weight gain, and even some weight loss as a result of nausea and morning sickness, usually manifesting in vomiting and food aversions. By second trimester, the weight gain rises but third trimester is really when it almost feels like the weight gain is going out of control.

Weight gain also impacts on the quality of life during pregnancy both for the mother and the fetus. For example, excess weight gain can lead to gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and even in some cases, a miscarriage or preterm delivery. Complications in labor and delivery can also be directly linked to excessive weight gain. It can also lead to birthing a macrosomic baby, weighs more than 4kg, which most times arises with some complications for the baby.

Given the above dynamics, it is imperative that your doctor tracks your weight often. They are not just being ‘nosey’ or ‘insensitive’ when they advise you to watch your weight gain. They are actually watching out for you. I felt judged when my doctor told me same in a space of 4weeks, I had gained almost 10kg in second trimester. But the complications during labour and delivery I had to face having gained a whooping 40kg and eventually birthed a 4.4kg baby ultimately made me wiser with my second pregnancy.

Beyond the doctor tracking your weight gain, you should also track your weight gain weekly or fortnightly. Anything more frequent than that would be an obsession. Some women weigh themselves every morning, especially those hoping to lose some weight and that would just lead to frustration, and hopefully not, some extreme steps to keep this in check, like dieting without professional input and ‘cutting out carbs’ putting the pregnancy at risk. However, a steady but controlled check helps put a measure of discipline on your own journey, especially as you benchmark it against online customized weight trackers that help you know how much you should be gaining weekly.

If however, you notice a disparity between the hospital figures and those you get from your own bathroom scale that is to be expected. Which is why ‘scale consistency’ is recommended, that is using the same scale from the beginning to the end of your journey. The most accurate figures are gotten first thing in the morning, before food, and unclothed. The hospital scale would most likely read higher figures because you would have eaten, and are dressed, both variables impacting on the figures.
However, the increase or decrease over the weeks should be consistent, meaning if you gained 2kg over 4weeks on your own scale, it should be about the same on the hospital scale. Monitoring your weight weekly with the hospital scale, your friend’s scale, the pharmacy scale, the gym scale and your own personal scale should be discouraged completely when pregnant as those varying figures would hardly provide a true indicator of your weight.

Track your weight using the same scale through pregnancy, and the increase should be gradual and spread over the 40weeks, peaking as the weeks go by. Weight loss can be normal or not depending on the figures and pregnancy history, but any attempt at weight loss without a doctor’s recommendation and a professional guidance is irresponsible and should be avoided.

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