The old adage that pregnancy is a time of “eating for two” has been around for some time. Yes, the pregnant mom IS eating for two, but one of them is very small. For most of us, eating whatever and as much as we want IS a fantasy. Unfortunately, during pregnancy, it is no more of a reality than at any other time.
Diet during pregnancy is important to the health and growth of the growing fetus, but the amount of weight gain required varies according to a mother’s pre-pregnancy weight. While an underweight woman needs to gain over 35 lbs to grow a healthy baby, an overweight lady can gain as little as 10-15 lbs to do the same. Not gaining enough weight in pregnancy cause cause issues with inadequate fetal growth, while excessive weight gain can lead to gestational diabetes, large babies, cesarean delivery and difficulty with weight loss after delivery.
It is perfectly normal to maintain weight, or even lose weight in the first trimester due to decreased appetite, nausea, or even vomiting, which is common in early pregnancy. Some women even gain weight in the early months of pregnancy because they find that eating throughout the day can reduce nausea. In contrast, by the third trimester, an average weight woman should be gaining about a pound a week.
How does a pregnant woman gain a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy? For the underweight to normal weight mom, it may mean eating 6 small meals throughout the day, snacking healthily on smoothies and trail mix and peanut butter sandwiches or granola. For the woman at risk for an excessive weight gain, it may mean drinking only calorie free beverages ( no sugary soda, juice or vitamin waters) and low or nonfat milk ( a couple glasses a day max). It also means making sure that there is protein at each meal (even breakfast) and weighing and measuring foods to keep a food diary. Some women gain too much even though they are eating the right kinds of foods, because they are eating too much of them.
For women of all sizes who are experiencing an uncomplicated pregnancy, exercise is an important component of every day. Simply moving enough to get the heart rate up at least 30 minutes a day helps promote healthy fetal growth and development. No one is required to become a distance runner during pregnancy, but continuing previous exercise routines or developing new low impact habits is ideal. For more personalized advice about weight gain and exercise during pregnancy, contact your obstetrician.
Tamar Gottfried is a Board Certified Obstetrician/ gynecologist practicing general Ob/gyn in Mesa Arizona and affiliated with Banner Desert and Banner Gateway Medical Centers. She can be contacted at 480-545-0059. This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be medical advice. See a medical professional before making medical decisions