As an OB-GYN, I know one of the biggest concerns shared by many women at the beginning of a pregnancy is how to manage weight. Questions like, “How much weight should I gain?”, “How much should I be eating?”, “How will I gain the right amount for my baby, but not too much that I cannot lose it?” all pop into a woman’s mind after discovering she is pregnant.
The American Congress of OB-GYNs has laid out guidelines for how much weight a woman should gain during her pregnancy based on her starting BMI which we’ve copied below.
Starting BMI Weight Gain
- Starting BMI: less than 18.5; 28-40 pounds
- Starting BMI: 18.5-24.9; 25-35 pounds
- Starting BMI: 25-29.9; 15-25 pounds
- Starting BMI: 30 or greater; 11-20 pounds
There are many online BMI calculators but it’s wise to double check with your physician to figure out which range you fall in. Once you know the proper range of weight to gain for your body, you can apply and monitor it over the course of your pregnancy. As any woman who’s ever been pregnant before will tell you, it sounds simpler than it is.
The easiest way to gain the right amount of weight for your baby is to increase your calories by eating larger portions of nutritious foods. A typical woman with a normal BMI who does 30 minutes of daily exercise should eat around 1800 kcal in the first trimester, 2200 kcal in the second trimester, and 2400 kcal in the third trimester. It’s important that you eat a well-balanced diet containing all five food groups.
Here are some additional tips for staying fit and healthy during pregnancy.
1. Skip the sugary drinks.
- Sugary drinks are low in nutrients and don’t offer any health benefits for you and your baby. Rather sodas and other high sugar beverages are a major culprit for weight gain.
- Skip diet drinks as well as they contain caffeine (which should be limited during pregnancy) and sugar substitutes.
- Proper hydration is important during pregnancy, so make sure you drink plenty of water.
- Juices are great in limited amounts, but always make sure any juice you drink is pasteurized.
2. Avoid the “eating for two” mindset.
- Don’t double your normal pre-pregnancy caloric intake.
- It’s all too easy to adopt the “I’m pregnant and I can eat anything and everything” mentality, but consider this: after you’ve given birth, you’ll have to lose that baby weight.
3. Stay active.
- Any woman experiencing a normal pregnancy needs to exercise. The American Congress of OB-GYNs recommends pregnant women should exercise thirty minutes or more most, if not every, day of the week, provided there are no medical complications and that the woman in question is not experiencing a high-risk pregnancy.
- It’s important to note that pregnancy is not a time to push yourself or start a new fitness regimen. Instead, light, regular exercise will help you manage weight gain in a way that is healthy for both you and your baby.
- In addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight, light exercise helps elevate mood and lower your risk of deep vein thrombosis (or blood clots) which can be caused by being more sedentary.
The best exercises during pregnancy include:
- Walking and jogging
- Swimming and water workout
- Stationary cycling
- Modified yoga and modified pilates (not hot yoga or hot pilates which can cause you to overheat)
You’ll want to avoid contact sports, extreme activities like skydiving, skiing, surfing, scuba diving, and horseback riding. As always, check with your doctor before starting on a new fitness regimen.
4. Eat little and often.
- Eating several smaller meals throughout the day will keep out of control hunger pangs at bay, which can lead to overeating.
- Smaller portions eaten more frequently may help reduce nausea and heartburn as well.
5. Eat your largest meal at lunchtime.
Eating your biggest meal for lunch allows you the chance to burn off calories ensuring you don’t pack on unnecessary pounds.
6. Pile your plate with loads of fruit and veggies.
If you tuck into tons of fruit and veg, you’ll know that every bite of the extra calories you’re taking in are completely nutritious! Look for nutrient-dense options like the foods listed below.
- Bell peppers
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower
- Leafy greens like spinach and kale
- Sweet potatoes
These are great guidelines for determining the right amount of weight gain for your body during pregnancy. That said, it won’t be easy, but that’s no reason to feel discouraged.
Pregnancy is a wonderful thing. Sure, your clothes won’t fit, you may experience swelling in your feet, ankles, or hands, and it may seem like your body will never return to its pre-pregnancy state, but the beauty of it is that all of these changes are a normal part of pregnancy. Embrace it! Ultimately, the important thing is to focus on maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen to ensure your baby is healthy as he or she can be.
One last thing to note. Obesity during pregnancy can lead to health problems down the line. For some women, it can be the starting point of obesity and related health issues. Obesity during pregnancy has also been linked to childhood obesity.
Staying fit is not just for you, it is for your child.