Because I am the only girl among the three siblings, I had the luxury of being tagged along by my mother everytime she goes shopping. I remember when I was still single I used to be very conservative.  I’d shy away from fashionable dresses that expose so much of my skin and those that fit a little tighter in order to give more exaggeration to my body figure. “Take time and enjoy wearing these clothing styles while you still can”, my mother said. “You won’t have that same waistline again when you get married and have kids!”

Well I guess she’s right. Now that I’m pregnant, I can see that I am getting heavier everyday. I need to adjust my maternity pants one hole further every week. I gained so much weight. I fear the consequence of not being able to shed off this extra weight after I give birth. I wonder if I will become like my mother, who from a petite skinny girl transformed to a short and plump woman after childbirth.

Weight gain during pregnancy is of course, normal. But what is the basis for us to say that it is normal? Some sources say that average weight gain during the first trimester of pregnancy is at around 5-8 pounds a week while 1 pound per week is expected during the second and third trimesters. Since these are just mere approximations, the most reliable measure of weight-related problems is the BMI, or Body Mass Index.

Body Mass Index can simply be derived by dividing your weight in kilograms over the square of your height in meters (BMI= kg/meter²). The prepregnancy BMI of a woman needs to be determined in order to know the normal weight gain expected during the pregnancy. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), for underweight women with prepregnancy BMI <19.8 kg/m², the recommended weight gain is between 28-40 lbs. Women with normal BMI at 19.9 to 25.9kg/m², the recommended weight gain is between 25-35 lbs. For overweight women with BMI at 26- 29 kg/m², weight gain should be between 15-25 lbs. For obese with BMI >29 kg/m², weight gain should be at least 15 lbs. From the study conducted by Power ML, et. al. in the Department of Research of ACOG, 82% of the 900 U.S. Ob-Gyne respondents use BMI to assess for obesity and to counsel their patients about weight control, diet and physical activity.

Therefore by just knowing your BMI, you have an idea if your weight gain during your pregnancy is way beyond normal. The good thing is you can do something about it! The idea is that preventing too much weight gain can actually help you lessen the burden of getting back in shape after giving birth. Keeping your eyes on the scale does not mean compromising your baby’s nutritional status as long as you’re within the normal weight values. Sometimes, all it takes for us to do is to decrease the quantity of food intake, like  limiting unnecessary simple sugars in the diet (sweets and desserts, for example) and increasing the quality of the food that we should eat like foods rich in protein, iron, folate, calcium, and other vitamins/minerals. In fact, 80% of obstetricians who responded to the study mentioned above reported counseling their patients about weight control and 84% about physical activity to their obese pregnant patients. So, work with your health care provider to determine what’s right for you.

So why do I care getting back in shape after giving birth? Personally, I’m not so concerned of being able to wear those tight-fitting clothes which my mother predicted I would never be able to wear again. There’s more to that. My motivation changed when I learned that failure to lose those excess weight 6 months after pregnancy would mean a very significant correlation to long-term obesity and medical complications such as insulin resistance and hypertension.  It is the long-term diseases that accompany obesity that we should be very vigilant of.  No mother in this world would be happy to know that, just when she’s having the time of her life with her kids, she is slowly developing several irreversible medical illnesses because of her failure to control her weight during and after pregnancy.

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