Bringing a mindful approach to pregnancy means listening to both your body and your doctor when it comes to weight gain.
Gaining some weight in pregnancy is a good idea. But not too much weight. There are standards around this, and many doctors will religiously weigh you every time you show up for an appointment. They’ll anxiously wring their hands at you if you’re not gaining enough and they’ll berate you if you’ve gained too much. But the carefully laid out formula just doesn’t really make a hell of a lot sense when you really think about it.
Every human body is unique. We all have different weights that are ideal for our bodies, and we gain and lose naturally at different times in our lives depending on what’s going on with us. When I gained a little faster than the standard in my second trimester, my doctor told me that it’s “time to stop eating now,” which is an absurd thing to say to a pregnant woman.
Too much weight has been correlated to other issues for mom and baby, but these will show up much more reliably in the form of blood pressure readings or routine tests for gestational diabetes than they will in the mother’s weight or size. Gaining weight alone doesn’t mean anything about the baby or mom’s health and wellness; blood pressure and glucose levels are much more important indicators there.
The medical standard implies that we gain weight at a standard tick within pregnancy, but it really doesn’t work like that. Some people lose weight during the nauseated first trimester, and then gain a whack load in their second trimester. Something like half of pregnant women gain more than the recommended 35 pounds or so. Every week of a pregnancy is different— sometimes we’re starving, sometimes we’re tired, sometimes emotional, and any number of other things that can change on a dime. It makes no sense that we would gain a steady amount of weight in an incredibly variable time in our lives.
Being pregnant has been a fascinating experiment in putting my mindfulness practices to the test. For me, a big part of mindfulness means listening to my body and honoring what it is telling me. I can feel when I need to eat, stop eating, take a nap, or when something feels wrong and I need to get some medicine. I don’t always get it right, but taking care of my body as best as I can is an act of self-love and self-care that can’t help but transfer to the baby in my belly.
My body has seemed to insist that I need to pack on some pounds during this pregnancy. Nausea came along with desperate, immediate hunger in my first trimester, and I put on 20 pounds almost right away. It was as if my body was saying, “You need to be a lot heftier in order to be able to do this.” Fair enough! So hefty have I become.
And most of the time it feels good. I like being curvier, weightier, a softer landing pad for my baby to come to and, hopefully, be able to continue to feed from when he’s outside my womb. I only have meltdowns when I can’t fit into my sweatpants anymore—or when my doctor tells me to “stop eating cookies.”
For me, mindfully gaining weight during this pregnancy is pretty much the same as it would be any other time: I’m feeding my body nourishing food when it tells me it is hungry. If I gain weight, so be it. If I keep the weight on after the baby comes, who cares? I am doing all the appropriate medical tests, and if something starts going medically wrong, I’ll adjust what I’m doing. I am trusting my body to do this how my body needs to. And gently, compassionately, tuning my well-meaning doctor out on this particular topic.