As a mum, or mum-to-be there can be so many expectations. From expectations of how pregnancy will be, to the perfectly planned labour, to "getting back into it" as soon as baby is here. And yes we all know that being a healthy weight is important before, during and after pregnancy, but realistic timeframes and expectations are so vital.
Let's start with the obvious - during pregnancy, weight gain is expected. In fact, there are evidence-based guidelines for how much to gain based your pre-pregnancy weight. The less you weigh prior to being pregnant, the more is recommended to gain. The higher your weight prior to pregnancy, the less is recommended. This makes sense from a health and disease prevention perspective. Gaining too little weight can have negative implications for the growth and development of baby. Too much weight gain can increase the risk of things like Gestational Diabetes, larger babies and therefore a more complicated, labour, delivery and recovery.
These numbers are here to guide and, as for any weight related recommendations, are not the only measure of success when it comes to health behaviours. Focus should be more on what we can have control on, like being active and eating well.
Generally, energy requirements for the first trimester remains the same, and increase for the second and third trimester. At all these times, nutrient needs still remain specific to pregnancy, so it is important to speak to your doctor about supplementation, especially prior to and in the early months of pregnancy. The physical activity recommendations also recommend meeting 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity, with considerations of the needs specific to the different phases in pregnancy. Expecting mums may need more or less than the standard dietary recommendations and specific guidance for exercise, depending on specific health or pregnancy needs like diabetes, or multiple births. Remain proactive, and ask your midwife, obstetrician or doctor about what you need.
Back to the topic of weight gain. Pregnancy is a time to know that weight gain will happen, and weight loss is not something safe to consider at this time – the focus is more on a healthy rate of weight gain. Yes - gaining weight whilst pregnant is actually something that some of us take time to become comfortable with. And that is totally understandable. It is change, and it is not always easy to accept that our bodies will change. Trust, though, in nature and the boundaries of the human female body and mind! This change is one that brings forth life. Once that life is brought into this world, your focus and energy on them is undivided, and so it should be. Our own expectations of "recovery" at this time is everything. As a health professional, I speak to many new mums who are motivated to get to their pre-pregnancy weight and body as soon as possible. Of course, coming back to a healthy weight is important, but the first priority should be on breastfeeding needs, & balancing rest with physical activity. Heavily exercising, if you're not getting any sleep, is not likely to lead to weight loss. Lack of sleep and high stress hormones are known to make weight loss challenging, if not impossible. It is ok to give yourself time, and important to let your expectations be realistic given the massive change you and your growing family are adjusting to. Focus on the right thing for your body and mind. Don't be afraid to ask for support, whether it is family and friends or professional support. Focus on what is within reach rather than setting your goal posts so far into the distance that they are out of sight. Love your body wholeheartedly. If your body looks like you've had a baby, let that be a reminder that you HAVE HAD A BABY! Silly I know, but let's remember and celebrate with a focus of good physical and mental health instead of only the aesthetics.
It takes leaders to put aside the unrealistic expectations and openly share what we should be doing. Celebrating life, every raw, unfiltered aspect of life. That's where we find the most meaning. I bow down to women who embrace and don't shy away from sharing what amazing things the body can do.
Photo credit: @lifeforeverchanged
For more information on weight gain in pregnancy, and to work out pre-pregnancy BMI, click on the following link: healthyweight.health.gov.au