SINGAPORE - Nine bags of rice. One baby hippo. A 14-year-old boy. All these weigh about 45kg.
Imagine that on your pregnant body.
Jamie Kaur doesn't need to. She actually put on that much weight during her pregnancy 10 years ago.
"After my terrible morning sickness subsided during the second trimester, I was giving in to every hunger pang and eating with a vengeance. Think five to six full meals a day, with three full servings each time," says the 35-year-old, who has one child.
By the eight month of her pregnancy, Jamie nearly doubled her original weight of 55kg, tipping the scales at 100kg.
Recounting a particularly funny incident, she says candidly: "One of my friends, who had not seen me for a while, had a huge shock when she saw me during the later part of my pregnancy. She caught a glimpse of me from afar and shouted across the room: "Oh, my god, what happened to you?"
Similarly, Melissa Klyne, 38, ate like crazy after grappling with severe morning sickness during the first two trimesters of her pregnancy. She literally ate for two.
"When I could finally stomach food properly, I was downing a one-litre carton of chocolate milk every day and chomping down two plates of rice each meal," says the customer service trainer, who has a 12-year-old-son.
Her svelte 58kg figure ballooned to a hefty 83kg, which made simple actions like getting out of the car difficult.
"My husband had to pull me out of the seat because I couldn't get out on my own. Everyone thought I was pregnant with twins," she says.
Bloom, not balloon
As your baby grows and your body takes on a curvier and more voluptuous silhouette, gaining extra kilos is a given during pregnancy.
Even so, doctors say it's no excuse to binge. Eating for two during pregnancy is an outdated notion, says obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Christopher Ng of GynaeMD Women's and Rejuvenation Clinic.
"You should eat as per normal. It's not the amount of food but the quality that matters," he says.
The recommended weight gain during pregnancy is 12kg to 16kg, says Dr Tan Wei Ching, a senior consultant at Singapore General Hospital's (SGH) Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. But if you're overweight to begin with, you should put on less weight (and vice versa if you're underweight).
Dr Ng says that, on average, most women put on the bulk of the weight in the second half of the pregnancy. In the first 20 weeks, the gain is only 2kg to 3kg.
For Jamie and Melissa, pregnancy was a time to let loose. It didn't help that their families kept encouraging them to eat more for Baby's sake.
"My Eurasian mum was such a good cook, and the baby's father was encouraging me to eat more, too. He didn't mind my weight because he felt it was good for the baby. But that obviously is not true," says Jamie,
Melissa adds: "Thanks to my really bad bout of morning sickness earlier on, everyone felt so sorry for me. When I could eat, nobody stopped me."
Too much of a good thing
Eating more during pregnancy does not necessarily mean a healthier baby, says SGH's Dr Tan.
"On the contrary, eating too much refined sugar and processed food is going to put the pregnant mother at risk of conditions like hypertension.
Expecting mothers with these conditions may go into early delivery and, hence, give birth to a premature and less healthy baby," she explains.
Gaining too much weight during pregnancy puts you at a higher risk of a host of complications, ranging from miscarriage and gestational diabetes to preeclampsia, says Dr Ng.
If left untreated, the latter condition can potentially endanger the lives of both mother and baby.
That was what happened to Jamie during Week 37 of her pregnancy. She developed preeclampsia and had to be hospitalised for a week. Her daughter was born after that, weighing a feather-light 2.8kg at birth.
"Thinking back about how light the baby weighed and how heavy I was, I feel terrible. Thankfully, nothing bad happened to her," says Jamie.
She also recalls how all that extra kilos took a toll on her knees, which could creak under her hefty frame. Shopping trips became a torture, as she had to sit down every five minutes to rest her painful knees.
"I stayed at home most of the time because my knees would hurt whenever I walked," she says.
Physically, excess weight can worsen the discomfort you experience during pregnancy, including backaches, leg pain, achy joints, varicose veins, heartburns and haemorrhoids, explains Dr Tan.
Weight a minute
Both doctors say the most common-sense approach to keeping pregnancy weight gain in check is to eat sensibly.
"There's no need to deny yourself the occasionally treat, but do choose wisely. Eat in moderation and fill up on healthy foods. Exercise can also help," says Dr Tan.
While she doesn't encourage strenuous exercise during the last trimester, she says light- to moderate- intensity ones such as brisk walking, swimming, lifting of light weights and even yoga are safe for expecting mums.
Sick and tired of dressing up only in oversized "auntie" nightgowns, Jamie went on a massive weight loss programme half a year after she delivered her baby.
For almost a year, she denied herself chocolates and sweet treats, and worked out every day. Along the way, she also found a new career in the fitness industry.
Today, Jamie is back to her original svelte size. So has Melissa, who exercised to shave off most of the excess weight she piled on during her pregnancy. All that remains are the unsightly stretch marks.
"I don't think I can ever get rid of them," says Jamie. "Even though my skin has become more taut after I started working out, the stretch marks are still all over my tummy, belly and legs.
"They are a reminder of how fat I had been. I definitely don't want to ever to back to that size again."
Get a copy of the July 2014 issue of Young Parents for expert advice and local tips to make you a better mum or dad. Young Parents, published by SPH Magazines, is available at all newsstands now.
Check out more stories at Young Parents online, www.youngparents.com.sg .