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You...Only Bigger. Embracing Your Growing Pregnant Body

The transformation your body goes through during pregnancy is nothing short of amazing, despite all of the not-so-miraculous side effects (indigestion, for one). In nine months your body adjusts to accommodate your growing baby, until you—and possibly everyone around you—can hardly believe what you're carrying around. (That's when you start getting those oh-so-supportive comments like, "Wow, you must be having twins" or "How are you still walking?")

There's no way around it, pregnancy means growth, in more ways than one. You can't give birth to a healthy, full-term baby without putting on some pounds—after all, it's natural, it's healthy and it's a requirement. If you're a chronic weight-watcher, this is the time to step away from the scale and cut yourself some slack.

Of course, pregnancy isn't an excuse for a nine-month junk-food frenzy, either. Good nutrition is more important than ever, for yourself and for your baby. We've got some tips to help you make sure you're on the right track throughout your pregnancy, which we hope is healthy, happy and heartburn-free.

Weighty issues

How much weight you need to gain depends on several things, such as your pre-pregnancy weight and BMI (body mass index), your health, and your baby's health. While you'll need to consult with your healthcare provider to figure out what's right for your own specific situation, here are some general guidelines on pregnancy weight gain from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:

  • If your pre-pregnancy weight was considered underweight: 28-40 pounds
  • If your pre-pregnancy weight was considered normal: 25-35 pounds
  • If your pre-pregnancy weight was considered overweight: 15-25 pounds

Some new moms-to-be are surprised (and bummed) to find out that of the (average) 25-35 pounds gained during pregnancy, only 7.5 pounds belong to the baby! If you're curious about where the rest of the weight comes from, here's how it breaks down:

  • 7.5 pounds is about how much the baby will weigh by the end of pregnancy
  • 1.5 pounds is how much the placenta weighs
  • 4 pounds is attributed to increased fluid retention
  • 2 pounds is the weight of the uterus
  • 2 pounds is the weight of breast tissue
  • 4 pounds is a result of increased blood volume
  • 7 pounds is attributed to maternal stores of fat, protein and other nutrients
  • 2 pounds for amniotic fluid

It all adds up to a grand total of 30 pounds (remember, that's only an average example). There's a common misperception that all or most of the weight should be featured only in the belly, but that's simply not true. The goal is to gain enough weight not only to grow a healthy baby, but to build up fat stores for delivery and breastfeeding. Thank goodness for ultra-stretchy maternity wear!

Guidelines for gaining

By gaining a healthy amount of weight, not only will you be supporting your baby's health, but you'll also make it easier on yourself to get back in shape after the birth. Sticking to some common-sense habits during your pregnancy helps make sure you and your baby are getting the right nutrients (let's face it, a container of chocolate-peanut butter ice cream isn't exactly a well-rounded meal).

During the first trimester, most women don't need to gain much weight-good news for those who suffer from morning sickness (which can sometimes really throw your appetite for a loop during those first weeks). If you're starting out at a healthy weight, an extra 150-200 calories a day (about the amount in a container of low fat yogurt) is sufficient.

In the second and third trimesters, steady weight gain becomes more important (especially if you're underweight). An extra 300 calories a day might be enough for you to gain the average of approximately 1-2 pounds per week, but do check with your healthcare provider to find out what she recommends for your rate of gain.

Don't pile on the calories by always going for junk food over healthier choices, though. Here are ways to make sure your meals are rich in nutrients (and still satisfying!):

  • Swap white breads and pastas for whole-grain varieties
  • Have sliced fruit available for snacking, instead of cookies or chips
  • Drink juices that are high in vitamin C, like orange and grapefruit
  • Choose dark, leafy greens instead of iceberg lettuce
  • Try some high-fiber, low-fat meals featuring rice, beans and low-fat cheese

Not everyone finds it easy to put on enough weight: Approximately one in four or five women gain an inadequate amount during pregnancy. If your healthcare provider is concerned, follow her suggestions for increasing your caloric intake.

Focus on the positive

If your doctor isn't worried about your weight gain, you shouldn't be either. Learn to love your pregnant body, no matter how different it looks from what you're used to! You're carrying a new life inside your own body, which is far more important than fitting in your skinny jeans (you can worry about that later). Embrace your ever-changing shape, give yourself the nutrition you and your baby need, and let go of unreasonable body image standards during this time.

Indulge in a couple outfits that really show off that marvelous belly. (Show the world that you're large and in charge.) Remind yourself that despite all the discomfort, a brand-new life is on the way, thanks to you...and your miraculous body.

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