As the baby grows and the woman’s body changes, she will naturally gain weight during pregnancy. Increases in blood volume, amniotic fluid, and the growing baby lead to a fairly steady weight gain throughout pregnancy.
In most cases, women who are overweight or have obesity should still gain some weight during pregnancy. However, they can use safe methods to reduce problematic body fat and avoid possible weight-related complications.
In this article, we discuss whether or not women should lose weight during pregnancy and provide safe methods for reducing body fat and minimizing the risk of potential complications.
Can you safely lose weight when pregnant?
Doctors do not usually recommend that women lose weight during pregnancy. Instead, they encourage pregnant women to focus on getting enough nutrients and exercise to keep themselves and the baby healthy.
The authors of a 2015 meta-analysis reviewed six studies and concluded that, in general, doctors should not recommend weight loss for women with obesity during pregnancy. They suggest that losing weight at this time can increase the risk of complications to the baby.
If a woman is overweight or has obesity before becoming pregnant, a doctor can offer advice on ways to avoid possible complications. Ideally, a woman should try to lose excess weight before becoming pregnant.
According to Dr. Jones from the University of Utah, women who are overweight by 60 pounds (lb) or more may not need to gain weight for a healthy pregnancy. The fetus can use their body’s fat stores for energy.
By not gaining any weight during pregnancy, a woman will usually be losing fat stores. After pregnancy, she may naturally have a lower body weight than before becoming pregnant.
Some women may find that they lose weight without intending to during the first trimester of their pregnancy due to nausea or morning sickness. Women who experience severe morning sickness may wish to talk to a doctor about how to get enough nutrients. Weight gain will usually occur once a pregnancy reaches the second trimester and the woman begins to feel better.
Safe ways to manage weight during pregnancy
According to the March of Dimes, most women need an extra 300 calories per day during pregnancy. This number of calories equates to 2 glasses of milk or a protein bar and piece of fruit.
Very underweight women may need to increase their calorie intake more than this, while those who are overweight might not need to increase their calorie intake at all.
A healthful diet and regular physical activity will help boost the overall health of a pregnant woman and the health of the baby. Women may naturally lose weight as a result of making these lifestyle changes, but they should not make them with the goal of weight loss.
The March of Dimes provide a week-long menu that offers examples of healthful food choices during pregnancy.
In addition to focusing on eating a healthful diet, a woman should talk to her doctor about physical activity during pregnancy. Not only does exercise burn calories, but it also offers stress-relieving benefits. It is important to discuss exercise with a healthcare professional as it may not be safe in certain pregnancies.
While guidelines can vary, many experts recommend 30 minutes of activity per day on most days of the week, unless a doctor advises otherwise. These activities can include walking, swimming, cycling, and aerobics.
Doctors recommend that pregnant women avoid contact sports and do not exercise at very high altitudes. In the later stages of pregnancy, it is also best to avoid exercises that involve lying flat on the back, as this can affect blood flow to the fetus.
How much weight should people gain?
The expected weight gain during pregnancy will depend on a woman’s weight before pregnancy and how many babies she is expecting. A woman who is pregnant with twins will gain more weight during pregnancy than she would if she were pregnant with one baby.
Women can use their starting body mass index (BMI) to determine how much weight they should expect to gain. Use an online BMI calculator to work out your BMI here.
Below is a table of how much weight a woman should gain during pregnancy based on her pre-pregnancy BMI.
|Underweight (BMI less than 18.5)||Healthy weight (BMI 18.5 to 24.9)||Overweight (BMI 25 to 29.9)||Obese (BMI 30 or above)|
|Single baby||28–40 lb||25–35 lb||15–25 lb||11–20 lb|
|Twins||50–62 lb||37–54 lb||31–50 lb||25–42 lb|
Doctors do not usually recommend that women focus on weight loss during pregnancy.
However, if a woman is concerned about how her weight may affect the pregnancy, she can reduce the risk of weight-related complications using diet and low-intensity exercise.