Pregnancy is a time of joy and expectation, but for overweight or obese women, it can also be a time of worry. Carrying excessive weight causes health complications in women who are not pregnant, and it increases the difficulties facing pregnant women. If you are overweight or obese and pregnant, you should exercise caution and consult your doctor before attempting to lose weight during your pregnancy.
Women who are overweight or obese when they become pregnant face the possibility of health complications. The March of Dimes notes that an overweight woman is more likely to experience miscarriage, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure or stillbirth. She is also at risk of needing a cesarean delivery, and her baby is more likely to be born early. While dieting during pregnancy is not recommended, your doctor may provide an eating plan to help you maintain a healthy weight.
Normal Weight Gain
The Weight-Control Information Network says that weight gain is normal during pregnancy, and generally, women should not lose weight during pregnancy. You need to eat enough calories and a wide variety of foods to ensure your baby gets all the nutrients she needs to develop properly. The Network states that women who are overweight before they become pregnant should expect to gain 15 to 25 pounds while they are pregnant. Obese women should gain around 15 pounds during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor if you experience weight gain outside these parameters.
Although you should not use exercise to try to lose weight while you are pregnant, exercising can provide benefits for both you and your baby. The website KidsHealth notes that the right exercises can help alleviate back and joint pain, ease delivery by strengthening your muscles and your heart, increase your sense of well-being and help you sleep better. If you did not exercise before your pregnancy, begin exercising by getting about 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderately-paced exercise each week. This amounts to walking, biking or swimming for about 30 minutes, five days per week. Avoid exercises that are jarring, cause you to bounce or place you at risk of abdominal injury.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women eat approximately 300 extra calories per day during pregnancy. This added caloric intake will provide both you and your baby with the levels of nutrients and energy you need and allow you to gain weight at a reasonable pace. Eating a variety of foods containing protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals will ensure your baby receives the nutrients he needs to grow and develop. Focus on eating lean meats, whole grains, and fresh fruit and vegetables; and protect your baby by eating the number of calories recommended by your doctor.
Your doctor is your best advocate for managing your weight while you are pregnant. Seek her advice before beginning an exercise routine or changing your diet. She can provide recommendations on how to begin your exercise regimen and refer you to a dietitian to help you build a healthy eating plan. Depending on your weight and medical conditions, she may recommend that you try to maintain your weight at your prepregnancy level. She will also monitor your health and your baby’s health throughout the pregnancy, and advise you to make exercise and eating changes if needed.
- March of Dimes: Your Pregnant Body – Pregnancy and Overweight Women
- Weight-Control Information Network: Fit for Two – Tips for Pregnancy
- KidsHealth: Exercising During Pregnancy
- American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Nutrition During Pregnancy
- What to Expect: Doctors Advise Obese Women to Lose Weight During Pregnancy