People are just realising how many calories pregnancy burns – it's more than you think

Side view close-up of pregnant woman touching her belly. Pregnancy health & wellbeing concept.
-Credit: (Image: Getty)

Pregnancy is known to take a toll on the body, but did you know it also burns a significant amount of calories?

Recent research, published on May 17 2024, has shed light on the energy expenditure of mammals during reproduction. Astonishingly, human pregnancy requires a massive 49,753 dietary calories, according to biologists at Monash University.

This calorie count equates to an astounding 104 McDonald's Happy Meals or 218 standard Mars bars quite the feast for any fast food aficionado. "Most of (the) energy that mammals put into reproduction is 'boiled off' as metabolic heat, only 10% ends up in the actual baby," Dr Dustin Marshall, a co-author of the Science publication, informed CNN.

"When both lactation and metabolic loads are accounted for, the baby itself represents less than 1/20th of the total reproductive investment."

The Melbourne-based team arrived at this conclusion after analysing 81 species from microscopic planktons to humans - modelling what exactly happens when they are expecting. While most animals transfer about 10% of their mega energy use to their offspring, humans transfer even less, at just 4%, reports the Mirror.

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High angle shot of Asian pregnant woman holding an ultrasound scan photo in front of her baby bump, sitting on bed at home. Mother-to-be. Precious moment in life. Preparation for a new family member. Expecting a new life. Baby and new life concept
The research is very interesting -Credit:Getty

Incredibly, a whopping 96 percent of energy is invested in the intensive processes of 'gestation' referring to the development that occurs from conception to birth.

"The results were surprising," Dr Samuel Ginther, the study's lead author, remarked. "We found that for many animals, the energy spent on simply carrying and caring for offspring before birth far outweighs the energy invested in the offspring themselves."

The findings have not only stunned researchers but also sparked a wave of astonished reactions online. On Instagram, one user commented: "I think this is a reminder to men why women deserve comfort and not be at work while pregnant or at all," while another added: "I mean OK that's a lot of ice cream to eat in nine months."

Another joined the conversation, saying: "Literally we been saying this...but apparently everyone likes to think that women are 'exaggerating and being hysterical' whenever we talk about this."

A fourth person shared: "Us moms could've told you that."

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