At each doctor’s appointment during my first pregnancy, I was nervous to be weighed. I already knew that I started my pregnancy heavier than what was recommended for my height and I had a lot of anxiety about gaining too much before my due date arrived. So, when I was shamed for gaining weight by my obstetrician, it only things worse.
I knew that there was a recommendation about how much you should gain during pregnancy and I wanted to do whatever it took to have a healthy pregnancy. At each weigh in, I was worried my provider would criticize me about my weight but each month I was thrilled to learn I had only gained a few pounds.
That changed early in my third trimester. I was feeling great and food was tasting better than it had for most of my pregnancy. Since I hadn’t struggled with weight gain up until that point, I had relaxed about watching what I ate. I headed into my next appointment only to learn that I had gained ten pounds that month. To make matters worse, I was seeing a new doctor at the practice.
My weight was the very first thing she wanted to talk about. She was direct and didn’t have the best bedside manner, so when she looked me in the eyes and said, “You’re gaining too much weight,” it felt like insult, not a fact.
I spent the rest of my pregnancy, and the two pregnancies that followed, closely watching my weight. I didn’t wait to be weighed at appointments, I kept a scale in my bathroom and weighed at home, too. I stayed active, ate healthy foods and avoided situations where I would be tempted to indulge in high fat or high sugar foods.
No matter what I did, I still gained a little too much weight. Instead of the recommended 25 to 35 pounds, I found myself gaining over forty during each pregnancy. I always felt like I was at a loss, I didn’t know what I could do better to avoid gaining too much weight.
One of the reasons this was such an issue for me is because I had believed that gaining more than the recommended amount was bad for my unborn baby. As it turns out, they may not be the case. All of my obsessing and worrying might have been wasted energy.
Early this month a new study examining the link between weight gain during pregnancy and infant and mother health outcomes was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In this study, researchers combed through data on 1.3 million pregnancies. The first thing they found was that nearly half of women gain more than the recommended amount. When they looked even closer at the results, they learned that the risks that come with gaining too much weight during pregnancy appear to be very low. In fact, even those mothers who gained more than recommended and their infants experienced negative outcomes may have had other factors at play that were actually behind the weight gain (or lack of weight gain) and the infant’s health.
These results are important because they serve as an important reminder for both expecting moms and their providers. Weight is really just a number on the scale and becoming hyper focused on that number only caused me to feel stressed and to focus more on that number instead of paying attention to what my body needed each day of my pregnancy. If my doctor had worked with me to approach my pregnancy more holistically, it would have been easier for me to see that nourishing food, good sleep and staying active were my top priorities. And if, like me, a mom is caring for her body, a few extra pounds shouldn’t be cause for shaming or pressure an expecting mom.