As I mentioned in one of my previous comments, I am currently 15 weeks pregnant with #3. My question is about weight gain. Since going mostly whole and healthful, etc. and starting to work out (last summer) I am finding it difficult to gain any weight this pregnancy (which is exactly opposite of the last 2!). I had no trouble maintaining my weight prior, so I’ve not been losing weight but I’m 15 weeks and have only gained 1.5 pounds – which is below where the dr. thinks I should be. If you wouldn’t mind, I would like your input on how to increase my weight the healthy way. And did you have this problem during either of your pregnancies, if so, what worked for you?Laura

Congratulations on your newest pregnancy, Laura, and thanks for the excellent question!

Although I used to struggle with my weight in previous years (particularly my teens and early university years), since I drastically altered my eating habits about 6 years ago, it has not been a struggle at all (in fact, it has switched over to the other extreme at times, as I struggle to keep the weight on). It seems that when I eat well and remain moderately active (by that, I just mean a busy, active lifestyle- I am not a really regular exerciser, though I am attempting to become more regular at it), then I am able to maintain a weight that I am very happy with.

So, it may come to you as no surprise that I gain little weight during my pregnancies. With my daughter, I gained 21 lbs, and with my son only about 17 lbs (or was it 19? I can't remember). Either way, it was low in comparison to many moms I know and hear about.My daughter was born 3 days past her due date, and weighed in at an extremely healthy 7 lbs 11 oz. My son was 8 days early, and weight 6 lbs 6 oz. Very mildly on the low end, but not a concern in the slightest.

During his pregnancy, I struggled to gain weight during my 3rd trimester, due to the stress of my husband's cancer ordeal, and so I know that he was a little bit smaller than he would have been otherwise. I imagine if it were not for that, and perhaps if he had gone to the full 40 weeks, he would have been more similar to my daughter in weight (maybe slighter lighter). Nonetheless, he was perfectly healthy!

I thought it was interesting that when he was born, so many people commented on how small he was that my friend, who was a nurse in the UK about 20 years ago, told me that babies here are so big and over there, a "normal" or expected size might be more like 5-8 lbs, rather than 7-10 lbs (or even up to 11, 12 or 13 lbs!), as is more the norm in North America.

I know that many doctors are now quite happy with up to 40-50 lbs weight gains, or even unlimited gain, even though the average used to be considered more like 25-35. Quite frankly, I can't understand why the need for so much gain, and it is my understanding that excess weight gain leads to greater complications in pregnancy and labor. When you consider the breakdown of what the weight gain should account for (baby, fluid, placenta, increased blood volume, sac, etc.) it means that the great, great majority of that weight is maternal fat stores. It's just not necessary, in my opinion.

Now, I will readily, 100% agree with the fact that some people just gain more weight naturally, and others do not. I have a friend who does not eat excessive sweets, tries to eat mostly whole grains, drinks a lot of water, exercises well, and still gains significantly more than I do (granted, she also retains much more water than I do and has higher blood pressure, which accounts for it somewhat). I have another friend who has continual nausea and vomiting throughout her pregnancies, and gains extra weight because she must continually eat to stave off the nausea. Completely understandable.

My own experience tells me, though, that it is perfectly acceptable to gain much less weight than we are accustomed to hearing about! If you ask a midwife what their main concerns are about weight gain (as I did frequently during my period of little/no weight gain with my son), all that they want to see if that you are eating according to your hunger (that is, you eat when you are hungry, until you are full), that your uterus growth is in line with the expected measurements, and that the weight gain is steady and does not have large fluctuations.

All of that said, please hear me when I say that I consider it very important to gain enough weight during pregnancy . Gaining enough weight ensures that your body is sufficiently well nourished in order to provide everything that your baby needs to grow adequately, as well as what your body needs to handle the demands of pregnancy. It is very important to consume enough calories and nutrients to make sure that your baby can grow strong and healthy, and to know that restricting what you eat in order to lose weight or gain less weight is never appropriate (though modifying the types of food that you are eating is very appropriate)!

I think that if you are struggling to gain weight in general, or are having several weeks in a row with little or no gain, then it would be appropriate to try to step things up a bit. When I noticed this during my pregnancy with my son, here are the steps that I took and would suggest to anybody who is struggling:

  1. Eat more fatty foods (good fats only!)
  2. Eat more protein
  3. Eat more calories in general
  4. Eat more often

By putting in this extra effort, I was able to start gaining some weight again, even in the midst of a very stressful season.

Some good fats that can help are avacados, nuts and nut butters (almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc.), full fat dairy (from a good, natural source, preferably), coconut oil, olive oil, butter, eggs and fatty fish (like salmon).Try snacks such as yogurt or coconut milk smoothies, cheese, toast with almond butter, salmon sandwiches/melts or try adding canned salmon to salads, hard boiled eggs, healthy "milkshakes" (mine usually include raw milk, fruit, honey, ice, vanilla, etc.), yogurt with nuts or granola, trail mix when you're out, etc.

Eating before bed may also help, as you are less able to work off the calories before sleeping (usually on a diet, you are told not to eat before bed, so just do that in reverse!).

Make sure that you are truly eating whenever you are hungry. Laura, you mentioned that this is your third, and I know that your two other children are young. After the first, you are just naturally busier and more preoccupied with little ones to care for, and if you're anything like me, it's easy to get distracted and not pay as much attention to your body's signals that are telling you to eat. It might be a good idea to try to make a point (even schedule it) of eating a mid-morning as well as a mid-afternoon snack, and something before bed as well.

I hope these suggestions serve you as you work towards having the healthiest pregnancy possible!