It is advisable not to indulge in activities or quick ways to lose weight while pregnant and also not gain excess weight if you are obese or overweight (1). The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests that women need to gain weight during pregnancy irrespective of their body mass index (BMI) (2). However, the amount of weight gain recommended depends on whether you have the ideal weight as per your body type or are overweight or obese.
You may keep your weight gain under control by eating a healthy and balanced diet and indulging in pregnancy-safe physical activities in case you are overweight. You should also avoid reading misleading articles or watching misleading videos about weight gain or loss during pregnancy. Instead, discuss your concerns with your doctor and act as advised for the health and wellbeing of you and your growing baby. Read this post as we tell you about some safe weight management methods during pregnancy.
Why Do Overweight Women Need To Manage Weight During Pregnancy?
According to the UK’s National Health Services (NHS), being overweight increases the risk of a miscarriage, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia (high blood pressure), blood clots, postpartum hemorrhage, and heavy babies in the mother.
In the babies, there could be risk of stillbirth or early birth (before 37 weeks). However, these risks are not unique to women who are overweight because they could happen in any pregnant woman (3).
The NHS recommends women not to try losing weight during pregnancy even if they are “very overweight”.
The best way to avoid weight issues during pregnancy is to reduce weight before conception. But if you have conceived even as you were trying to lose weight, make sure you are having a controlled weight gain so that you are not crossing the threshold of the recommended weight gain (see the next section).
Safe Ways To Manage Weight When Pregnant
The best approach to deal with excess weight gain is to have a concrete plan and focus on having a healthy lifestyle. If you are overweight or obese and your doctor recommends weight management, you may follow the below ways:
1. Know your weight needs
The amount of weight that you should gain during pregnancy depends on your pre-pregnancy BMI (body mass index). Before you decide to lose weight during pregnancy, it is good to know your threshold for pregnancy weight gain. The below chart helps you know how much weight you can gain (2):
|Pregnancy weight category||Body mass index||Recommended range of total weight gain|
|Underweight||Less than 18.5||28-40lb (13-18kg)|
|Obese||30 and above||11-20lb (5-9kg)|
Source: Institute of Medicine/ ACOG
According to ACOG, women who are overweight or obese can gain lesser weight than that recommended as long as the baby is growing fine.
2. Understand your calorie requirement
As mentioned in the above table, all pregnant women don’t need to gain the same amount of weight. So, you need to know your calorie requirements. Your calorie requirement increases in the second and third trimester.
For women with normal weight, the average caloric intake should increase by around 300kcal/ day during pregnancy. However, it varies depending on your BMI among other things. Therefore, talk to your doctor to understand your specific needs (4).
Don’t follow low-calorie diets or rigorous weight loss regimes like intermittent fasting.
3. Eat frequent but small meals
This could help you manage your weight, whether you are pregnant or not. Eating frequent but small meals helps you manage your portion size. This is especially useful during pregnancy when eating a full meal can make you feel sick. Experts advise eating three not-too-big main meals and two to three smaller meals per day (5).
4. Eat healthy food
Losing weight does not mean starving yourself; definitely not when you are pregnant. It means eating healthy. Here are some foods you should eat:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Cereals and bread made with whole grains
- Low-fat milk and dairy products
- Foods rich in folate, such as strawberries, spinach, and beans
- Unsaturated “good” fats like olive oil, canola oil, and peanut oil
And then you need to avoid some foods, including:
- Food laced with artificial sweeteners
- Food and drinks that contain sugar or corn syrup
- Junk food like chips, candy, cake, cookies, and ice cream. It’s okay to cheat once in a while, just don’t make it a habit
- Salt causes water retention in the body. So, have it in moderation
- Unhealthy fats like margarine, butter, gravy, sauces, mayonnaise, and salad dressings
5. Do not eat for two
Pregnancy does not mean you have to eat for two. In fact you do not have to eat for two but eat healthy food. Besides calories and proteins in the required amounts, the body also needs nutrients such as folic acid, vitamin B12, and calcium.
Nuts provide protein while milk and cereals supply the extra calories. Eggs and yogurt are a great source of protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Spinach is high in folic acid and should be included in your everyday diet. Red meat provides iron.
You do not have to stop working out because you are pregnant. Working out is important if you want to manage your pregnancy weight (3) and prepare your body for the delivery.
But talk to your doctor or a trainer specialized in exercises for pregnant women, before you plan your workout regimen. You may have around 30 minutes of exercise four to five times a day. You may try exercises such as:
Do not take up exercises that are taxing. Avoid exercises if you experience any of the following (6):
- Vaginal bleeding
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness
- Amniotic fluid leakage
- Have a medical condition (such as threatened miscarriage, incompetent os, placenta previa or high blood pressure) for which the doctor has specifically advised to avoid exercises
7. Carry your lunch to work
This way you can avoid eating outside food or junk food. Also, you can limit the quantity of the food you take. Preparing your lunch gives you the freedom to add all the veggies and fruits you want, and avoid the ingredients that may cause unnecessary weight gain.
Accept The Changes
Respecting your body also means accepting what it is. Gaining weight is normal during pregnancy and, in fact, is essential for your baby’s health. Just make sure your weight gain is within the limits set by your doctor. Do not resort to any crash diets or take other unhealthy short-cuts to lose weight during pregnancy because that will have an impact on your baby.
Enjoy the journey to motherhood. Love yourself and remember that after delivery once you are settled with the baby you can get back to your fabulous self with some effort and lots of determination. One can start exercises (especially abdominal) six weeks after a normal delivery and 12 weeks after a cesarean section. Routine walking can be done after delivery whenever you can.
The NHS of the UK suggests that gaining too much weight during pregnancy might increase the risks of miscarriage or high birth weight in babies. However, trying to lose weight might compromise the nutritional requirements of you and your baby. Thus, it is advised not to try losing weight while pregnant. Instead, maintain your calorie intake, eat healthy food, and try light exercises. Following these tips to manage your weight while pregnant could help you have a healthy pregnancy and reduce the risks of complications.
2. Weight gain during pregnancy; Committee on Obstretrics practice, The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology
3. Overweight and pregnant; NHS (2017)
4. Michelle A. Kominiarek and Priya Rajan; Nutrition recommendations in pregnancy and lactation; PubMed Central (PMC), NIH
5. Pregnancy and birth: Weight gain in pregnancy; Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG) (2018)
6. Managing maternal obesity: Suggestions for the prevention of maternal morbidity and mortality; New York State Department of Health