Handling Weight Gain during Pregnancy

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As some of you may have guessed from a previous post on Parenting and Pregnancy during Covid-19, I am currently incubating a miniature human. The decision to get pregnant wasn’t always an easy one. I vacillated between feeling ready to handle the challenges of parenthood and being hesitant because I like my life. But also becomes of my own history of recovery. I was concerned what pregnancy could mean for my mental health. And particularly aware of post-natal depression, thought to affect 1 in 10 women who give birth every year – as well as their partners. Included in the risk factors for post-natal depression is previous experiences of depression earlier in life.

When we made the decision to start trying to get pregnant my doubts didn’t go away. But each unsuccessful attempt, met with disappointment, further assured me that I did want a child. So, when pregnancy began I looked forward to the journey. There are a few things I wish I knew about beforehand but the one thing I didn’t expect was how much pregnancy weight gain would bother me.

Changing Body

During the first trimester I eagerly awaited feeling pregnant. And I was frustrated when the bump didn’t grow. But this is normal and I enjoyed looking like my usual self. On reflection, it was more impatience than anything else that annoyed me about not looking pregnant. Now I was pregnant I wanted to get on with it!

But, of course, I did start to gradually look pregnant a few months in. You’d think that I’d be overjoyed to start to see my body changing given my impatience with the process. And yet, the site of my stomach becoming more rounded didn’t bring me joy. If anything, it accentuated my worries and drastically impacted my mood and self-esteem. Somehow I’d switched from eagerly wanting to look pregnant to low moods as I looked in the mirror.

Despite assurances, albeit online ones, that people grew at different rates. I had concerns that I was growing too fast. Claims of normality online didn’t soothe my worries. At my first midwife appointment my midwife said my weight was fine. Everything online suggested a midwife would flag weight concerns with me. But the worries continued.

Pregnancy Weight Gain

My mood continued to deteriorate as my stomach expanded. I felt as if my body was not my own and was being taken over. I didn’t feel myself and this only compounded my lowering self-esteem. Things hit rock bottom when I came across a pregnancy weight calculator online. I’m usually very wary of these kind of things but it was on a trusted pregnancy website. I was distraught to put my pre-pregnancy and current weight in to discover that I was at the upper limit of where I should be. Next I fell down a Google rabbit hole trying to read as much health information about pregnancy weight gain from as many safe resources as possible.

My anxiety grew as I read about the serious possible health implications and birth complications that increased weight in pregnancy could cause. Most websites suggested that a midwife would track my weight and advise me if I need to be more cautious based on my own individual circumstances. But due to Covid-19 I’d not had any appointments for almost 20 weeks; half of my pregnancy. I started to weigh myself; limiting myself to once a week because I didn’t want to get into unhealthy habits and fuel my new obsession with weight gain.

This may not be the best strategy and I would suggest everyone should think carefully before doing so. This is by no means a recommendation. Being overly preoccupied with my weight has had the biggest impact on my mental health of any other aspect of pregnancy. One week it appeared that I had gained 2lbs. 1lb a week for my part of pregnancy was the recommended gain. Distraught I cried down the phone to my sister who spoke to an obstetrician she knew. She took a full medical history and assured me I couldn’t gain 2lbs in a week. This soothed my worries greatly. But I was lucky to be able to access this reassurance. Particularly when I wasn’t having any of my usual appointments.

Reflections on Weight Gain

A few weeks on I’ve taken a step back from my pregnancy weight gain. I now weigh myself once a week to help me feel more in control. As my husband constantly reminds me, I am growing another human and therefore I need to be gaining the weight. He is, of course, correct. But I don’t think that that is the source of my struggles.

I have spent the vast majority of my life being aware of my weight. My body has not always felt like my friend or a safe place to live. From side comments about my weight by family members or unfair comparisons with skinnier people in my life. I’ve expended much time and energy trying different diets and exercising to be a weight I felt happy with.

It has been a journey of years and recently I’ve finally felt good physically. Through a mix of maintaining an exercise regime (more here) and a better relationship with food. I’ve made peace with my body and am a healthy weight.

Given my history, weight gain, particularly around my stomach was going to be difficult. Additionally, as per previous posts, lots of my anxiety stems from needing to be in control. So knowing my stomach will grow, and knowing I couldn’t remedy the fact because it was unsafe to do during pregnancy, added another layer of difficulty.

And now, as I enter the third trimester I’m mentally preparing myself for further growth as we inch towards the finish line. Being able to feel my baby move, increasingly stronger each week, has helped me bond with my baby and my bump. It feels more like my body is within my own ownership once more. And I’m not resentful of the little life causing the changes.

But there are still times that my body feels foreign. Or I become overly aware of my ever-growing belly. It’s not easy feeling breathless after a long day or a short walk. I’m having to relearn my limits. But for now, I have found some perspective on this difficult aspect of pregnancy. And, I hope, if this has been bothering you as well that you perhaps feel less alone by reading it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Has this been your experience or have you found it hard to watch your body grown at times, related to pregnancy or not? How do you make your body feel your own? Let me know below!

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16 thoughts on “Handling Weight Gain during Pregnancy

  1. I was totally fine with weight gain during my pregnancy. It has been all the years since that have been a different story. My body has never been the same. Sometimes it bothers me, but I also know without a doubt that it was all worth it. I wouldn’t trade my healthy, happy kids for anything, even a smaller size body.

    1. Yes everyone tells me once the baby is born any body changes will be worth it. I’m sure they’re right! One of my concerns was about post-baby. I didn’t mind the weight gain now but wanted to avoid too much excess so it wasn’t such a journey to slim down at the other end. I was concerned being very big after the baby would negatively effect my mood which can be very tied to my self esteem

  2. Your husband is right, you are growing another human and if you don’t put on some healthy weight, your baby will leach what they need from you instead – it’s Nature’s way! Congratulations on your pregnancy though, it sounds as if you’re in a much better place now. Exciting times ahead 🙂 Lisa

  3. I can completely relate to this. I struggled gaining weight through all 3 of my pregnancies. It really is a time to celebrate though. You are growing a tiny human! You’re doing an amazing thing! At the end of the day, if baby and you are healthy… That’s all that matters. we are all different shapes sizes and have different health things.. we gain different. Don’t look it up anymore. Just be amazed with yourself. You’re growing a human babe! That’s amazing! Sending so much love your way.

  4. It’s great your midwife was good about it. I lost a bunch of weight the beginning of my pregnancy and then gained it back in full force. I saw an OB who said in a judgy way that I had gained a lot of weight. I tore that man down because 1. I hadn’t gained that much weight and 2. It’s much better than losing weight like I did in the first trimester. I think too much attention is on weight when every woman (and pregnancy!) is so different. The focus should mostly be on the mom’s health and baby’s health.

    1. Agreed. I had really serious morning sickness in first trimester but not sure if I gained/lost weight. My midwife has been really reassuring since. I asked when I (finally!) had an appointment and she advised me to eat healthy and exercise as I saw fit. But also that I was pregnant and should take it easy and sit on my sofa and eat ice cream within moderation! But as no appointments for 20 weeks I felt really unsupported and online info said a lot about judgey healthcare professionals!

  5. Congratulations on your pregnancy! I’m sorry to hear of your struggles. I’ve always been on the slightly heavier side so I didn’t start to show until I was around 18 or 19 weeks. I couldn’t wait for the bump and I actually starting wearing tops that were tighter to show it off, because I’ve worn lose fitting tops to hide my weight.
    Pregnancy can be super tough on your body so remember to be kind to yourself! And when you feel those teeny tiny feet kicking it makes it all worth it. Best of luck with the rest of your pregnancy xx

  6. Girl I’m 37 weeks pregnant and I can so relate to this! In fact, I’ve written about it in my blog, too! As soon as I saw you checked a pregnancy weight calculator I was like “Nooo!!” Those are horrifically inaccurate! What my midwife explained to me when I spoke to her (practically in tears) was that it’s not all fat weight we are gaining. Yes, it’s the baby. But, also, your placenta, your amniotic fluid, your water weight and… the biggest one.. your blood volume. You know how heavy a bucket of water is? Well, blood is even heavier! I wrote more extensively on this in my blog; please do have a look. I think you will find it very reassuring. I know when I learned more about it that I did. Honestly, I do not weigh myself. I haven’t for a long time and my mental well-being is MUCH better for it! Just eat when you are hungry, try and have a varied diet of healthy foods, and stay as active as you have the energy for. Trust your body to gain as much weight as YOU need. That’s why those calculators and guides are B.S… every human body is so different! They can’t make a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all estimation for pregnancy weight gain. As i said, please do check out my blog! http://www.positivepreggos.com
    Good luck with the rest of your pregnancy. I look forward to reading future posts.

    1. Thanks for your reassurance! I couldn’t agree more. I do still weigh once a week but I find it reassuring. But I’m a healthy weight and things are progressing well so I’m in a much better place! Things need to be more reassuring for new mums about weight. There’s way to much fat shaming type stuff out there!

  7. Although it’s not the same as getting pregnant, I can understand some of your feelings over your belly getting bigger, as mine has to due to my reactive hypoglycaemia and my need to eat every 2-3 hours coupled with an extremely low exercise tolerance. Good luck with growing your miniature human

  8. Hey. I remember feeling huge with both boys. With my first I ate a lot of battered sausages from the chippy, with my second it was fizzy pop. Both it was chocolate, all the chocolate. However, I also saw this:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3604275.stm
    It basically says that baby’s whose mums ate chocolate while pregnant were happier and more chilled. Both boys were really mellow babies, sure they had their sleep issues but they were both totally unfussy. I put it down to all the chocolate I ate.
    With my second I went from 8st to over 12st. That’s a massive gain and all the research says it’s bad and should be avoided. But I was back under 9st after five months, post-C section just from walking everywhere. I’m back to my normal healthy weight now. My body will never be the same but in return I have two fab boys.
    What I’m trying to say in this novel of a comment, is that everyone’s body responds differently to pregnancy. Mine stores all the calories like a bear preparing to hibernate. But it also comes back off again and the shape of our bodies does not determine what sort of a mum we are. You’re already doing a fantastic job, you’re nourishing your unborn child and prioritising their needs. Keep doing that and you will be wonderful parents. Good luck. Xx

  9. Congratulations on your pregnancy! I’m sorry to hear about your mental health struggles during it, I’m sure it’s not surprising due to how stressful and anxiety inducing this year has been overall! At least you will have one amazing thing to look back on and say about it though 🙂 Good luck with the rest of the pregnancy and stay safe! x

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