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Eating For Two? How To Maintain A Healthy Weight During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, many women relish theopportunity to feed their sweet tooth or enjoy comfort foods that are full ofempty calories. In fact, 47percent of American moms gain too much weight during pregnancy, according to a report from theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Some women think they have to eat for twoduring pregnancy, but overeating can lead to health problems for moms, such asdiabetes and heart health concerns. And excessive weight gain during pregnancymakes it that much harder to lose the weight after birth, leading to anincreased risk of obesity at the beginning of a future pregnancy. 

Of course, some weight gain is expected duringpregnancy. However, it’s important to discuss with your doctor how much weightyou should gain based on your weight before pregnancy and your unique healthcondition.

Determining your pregnancy weight

At the start of your pregnancy, calculate your body mass index (BMI) to help determinewhether you are at a healthy weight. You might be surprised at what you learn. Forexample, an active woman who is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 155 pounds isconsidered overweight (but not obese) based solely on BMI. Of course, there mightbe an unusual case of someone who is exceptionally fit and muscular who couldfall into this category. But for most patients, this designation is accurate. 

How much weight gain is normal duringpregnancy?

In general, pregnancy doesn’t cause weightgain in the first trimester, which is the 14-week span that begins on the firstday of your last period. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologistsrecommends that women who start out at a healthy weight gain 25 to 35 poundsthroughout the course of pregnancy, whereas those who start a pregnancyoverweight gain no more than 15 to 25 pounds, and those who are obese gain nomore than 11 to 20 pounds. 

I tell my patients who are at normalBMIs to break down the weight gain like this:

● Five pounds in the first half ofpregnancy (or first 20 weeks)

● One pound per week thereafter

After delivery, it can be tough to lose theweight gained during pregnancy. You’ll likely be tired and experience somestress in caring for the newborn, which further complicates weight loss.However, carrying extra weight can result in long-term obesity, whichcontributes to a lot of health problems, such as:

● Heart failure

● High blood pressure

● Osteoarthritis

● Sleep apnea

How your health care team can help

The first step to help a pregnant womanmaintain a healthy weight is the prenatal visit. A woman’s first prenatal visitalways includes a weight check. We do this in the exam room to keep ourpatients’ weights private – a practice patients have praised on our patientsatisfaction surveys.

We ask for a baseline weight for many reasons:

● To measure the ability to keepfood down – I’ve seen patients with severe nausea and vomiting lose five to 10pounds early in pregnancy

● To make sure you are gainingweight appropriately during the middle of pregnancy

● To watch for rapid weight gainfrom swelling, which can indicate preeclampsia, or high blood pressure duringlater pregnancy 

When you arrive for your visits, wear everydayclothing and remove your shoes. This will help us most accurately assess yourtrue weight.

Managing your weight at home

I advise women to monitor their weight gain athome during pregnancy, especially because early prenatal visits might be weeksapart. Here are some tips:

● Track your weight: You can keep track on paperor by using a digital tool such as the  pregnancy weight tracker from the Centers forDisease Control and Prevention.

● Weigh yourself at the same time every day: Forexample, always weigh before or after bathing so there’s no confusion about theweight of clothing. 

● Stay active: Combat the extra calories youmight eat by getting the recommended 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days aweek.

● Watch out for cravings: Go ahead and enjoy apint of fresh raspberries every day. But be careful about the amount of Ben andJerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream you eat late at night! Try to choose nutrient-densefoods to curb your cravings. 

Having a sweet tooth or other cravings duringpregnancy is totally normal. I know how it can feel – I’ve been there. But theimportance of keeping your calories in check and getting a steady dose ofexercise can go a long way in ensuring your weigh-ins during prenatal visitsare as expected, which can help pave the way for long-term health for you andyour baby.

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