Why do we get fat when we get pregnant?

fat during pregnancy, fat, pregnant, post natal, epping, pilates, pregnancy, fit school

Celebrity bounce-back-into-shape culture could have us all believing that during pregnancy we should all put on the standard (according to the NHS) eight to 14 kilos of additional ‘baby’ weight, and that six weeks after that almighty ring-of-fire-and-brimstone push we’ll be merrily slipping into our pre pregnancy, skinny jeans.

Well, think again! One of my missions for the sanity of womankind is to demonstrate, through science and fact that this is neither normal nor healthy.

There are some women, generally naturally slim women, who will plop their delicate selves onto their non-scary weighing scales after their six-week check and discover that they are back to their pre pregnancy weight. Great. Good for you. But you’re not making us feel any better.

There are also some women who are keen to post pictures of their post natal recovery, in their pants, on Instagram or other social channels. This is a bit weird! But sells stuff. It can also make us think we should also be changing shape as quickly. But again – it’s not the norm. Unfortunately, as much as we’d like to not compare ourselves to others, during the post natal period we can be vulnerable to images of what the world thinks we should look like.

Fat is normal

During pregnancy, nature conspires to make us fat. Our hormones do weird stuff to protect our babies and prepare our bodies for motherhood. During pregnancy it is usual to get increasingly more resistant to insulin in order to provide nutrients to baby. This means you are slightly diabetic,  in order to store fat quickly and have energy supplies in reserve. Think of it as human stockpiling.

That extra weight that you’re carrying around includes your baby, placenta, amniotic fluid, extra blood, bigger breasts, extra fluid (water retention), heavier organs (especially uterus) and fat.

Fat and hormones

Far from being awkward lumps of lard, fat is a clever storage facility for all sorts of hormones and nutrients. At times of famine – like puking, illness or even sleep – that fat is there for your baby, like a nutritional insurance policy.  And fat around your tummy is the most easily accessible source of energy for your body (we lay tummy fat down at times of stress for the same reasons).

Roll on to those joyous breast feeding days and as well as a less than glamourous wardrobe full of clippy-whop-out-your-baps-friendly, puke stained vests, you are still in your maternity jeans, or if you’re really lucky, those fat day jeans.  When’s the less than yummy mummy tummy going to go?

Fat after birth

Again, in your post natal days, your body is clinging on to fat for milk production and for survival. And three of the worst enemies of fat burning are sleep deprivation, hormone imbalance and sugar. For at least the first six months of your baby’s life, events are conspiring to cling on to the chub.

So what’s the answer?  Don’t fight it.  The last thing your body wants is to cut calories, that will just make you crazy. If you want to get a little control back, eat well for you and your baby and accept the stretchy clothing for just a little bit longer or at least until you’re getting a little more sleep.

Having worked with pregnant and post natal women for over 15 years I have seen my fair share of women getting frustrated over baby weight. If I can give you any reassurance however it’s that it does go! It is a really short period of your life. Once your baby is toddling around you will wonder how you ever had time to eat. So enjoy the cake now.

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