Here's The Deal With All That Water Weight You Hold Onto During Pregnancy

by Kelly Mullen-McWilliams

I remember standing in front of the mirror in my third trimester, wondering why my face looked like an overblown balloon. Pregnancy is a time of incredible shapeshifting, expansion, and physical change — a miracle, sure. But in a culture that valorizes thin female bodies, it's also undeniably nerve-wracking to watch yourself grow. I'd expected to gain a significant amount of weight while baking this baby, but guys, I didn't expect to gain it in the shape of extra chins. What's the deal? Do you gain weight everywhere when pregnant? As any pregnant person knows, it's definitely not just going to your belly.

According to American Pregnancy Association, women who start their nine-month journeys with an average body mass index (BMI) can expect to gain about 25 to 35 pounds. The good news is that a significant proportion of your weight is actually water, explained Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman, an OB-GYN with TwinDoctorsTV, in an interview with Romper. When you're pregnant, he says, your blood volume increases by 50 to 60 percent. As a result, you get a lot of "third-spacing," in which fluid leaking out of your blood vessels collects in fatty tissue, wherever that tissue may happen to be.

The swelling in my face? Classic third-spacing. Other women might notice that their midsections or thighs are puffier than normal. And everyone notices that their boobs bust out a new cup size. "A lot of the weight in pregnancy — not all of it, but a lot of it — is water weight, so it tends to accumulate in areas where you have more fat tissue to begin with," explains Abdur-Rahman.

Interestingly, your weight may also fluctuate over the course of your very pregnant day. According to Adbur-Rahman, water weight is known to shift and change dramatically, but it's generally nothing to worry about. If you weigh 140 in the morning, and 147 in the evening, you didn't gain 7 pounds in one day. What you're seeing reflected on the scale is water, sloshing and pooling in your body. As long as you gain weight within the 25 to 35-pound recommendation, then no matter where you gain it, "it’s truly just that extra water weight, the weight of the baby, the weight of the amniotic fluid and the placenta, and within a couple of weeks of delivering, you go back to normal," says Abdur-Rahman.

Let's break that down. According to American Pregnancy Association, by late in your third trimester you're looking at about 7.5 pounds of baby, 1.5 pounds of placenta, 2 pounds of added uterine weight, 2 pounds of breast tissue (though I swear it feels like more), 2 pounds of amniotic fluid, and 7 pounds of maternal fat stores. On top of that, you can expect to gain at least 4 pounds of water weight, which, if you're anything like me, you're highly likely to discover in your face.

Pregnancy weight gain might be feel uncontrollable or strange. And honestly, I can't think of a woman who enjoys feeling bloated all day long, wondering if this is going to last forever. But it might help to know that noticeable weight gain in fatty areas is probably just water, which your body is happy to shed after you give birth.

As a general rule, Abdur-Rahamn advises patients to consume no more than 350 to 550 extra calories, depending on which trimester they're in, for healthy weight gain. "If they do that, they should gain the 20 to 30 pounds, and it should resolve within a few weeks of delivery," he says. Because that's the thing with water weight: as annoying as it is to wake up with chipmunk cheeks, it's easy come, easy go.

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.