Why do we get fat when we get pregnant?

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

Now of course 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. Whoop whoop. Good for you. But you’re not making us feel any better.

During pregnancy, nature conspires to make us fat. Our hormones do weird stuff to protect our babies and prepare our bodies for motherhood. Some studies have suggested pregnant women become slightly diabetic in order to store fat quickly.

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.

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?

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.


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