Pregnant and Want to Lose Weight? How To Do It Safely

Many women wonder if it is safe to lose weight during pregnancy. The short answer is that it depends on your pre-pregnancy weight, your pregnancy weight gain, your overall health, the health of your baby and the methods you use to lose weight. You can safely and naturally lose weight during pregnancy, but there are a few key factors you need to know to ensure the health and safety of you and your unborn child.

Ideal Pregnancy Weight Gain

It is natural to gain weight during pregnancy, but you want to be sure not to gain too much baby weight. However, almost half of women gain more than the recommended weight during pregnancy. The recommended healthy weight gain is based on your body composition going into your pregnancy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women who are underweight and pregnant with one child should gain between 28 and 40 pounds. Women of normal weight (a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9) should gain between 25 and 35 pounds. Those who are overweight (a BMI between 25 and 29.9) should gain between 15 and 25 pounds, and those who are obese (BMI equal to or greater than 30) should aim to gain just 11 to 20 pounds. If you are carrying more than one child, your weight gain will be more.

Problems with Being Overweight or Obese and Pregnant

There are complications with gaining too much weight during pregnancy, as well as going into your pregnancy overweight or obese. Namely, you could have a child who is at risk of obesity and the associated health conditions like diabetes. Plus, you might have a large baby or require a cesarean delivery, both of which come with complications.

When you are overweight or obese and pregnant, you also increase your risk of many dangerous complications associated with pregnancy, including preeclampsia, birth defects, gestational diabetes and losing the child. You might also have an increased risk of infection.

The Risks of Dieting

Many women who are pregnant enjoy the excuse to "eat for two," but being pregnant does not mean that you simply give up on any sort of diet. That being said, you need to ensure you eat sufficient calories and nutrients for your own needs -- and that of your developing child. If you cut your caloric intake too much in order to not gain weight or even lose weight, then you risk malnutrition. This leads to complications during pregnancy, and it can hurt the future health of your child.

Certain nutrients are essential, and they can lead to birth defects if there are not sufficient quantities during key points in the pregnancy. One of the biggest examples is folate, also known as folic acid. Most women are put on some type of folic acid supplement before and during pregnancy because of the association between folic acid deficiency and neural tube defects, a serious birth defect. Lack of other nutrients, such as the omega-3 fatty acids and iron, can also lead to developmental delays, birth complications, loss of the fetus and health problems for the child.

Related: The Best And Worst Foods To Eat When You're Pregnant

balanced diet, cooking, culinary and food concept

balanced diet, cooking, culinary and food concept

How to Safely Diet

Although insufficient nutrition can lead to complications, dieting can be safely done to lose weight naturally. You simply need to ensure you consume a nutrient-rich diet, especially one rich in the most important nutrients for a developing fetus like iron and the B-vitamins. You also need to consume adequate calories for yourself and the growing child. As a rule of thumb, during the first trimester, you do not need any additional calories. During the second trimester, you need an additional 240 calories per day, and you need an additional 452 calories per day during the third trimester. That being said, you can safely cut your overall caloric intake and still have a healthy child.

To do this, you need to determine how much weight you need to lose and create a plan so that you gradually lose weight. Ideally, you should only look to lose about a pound to two per week, which is usually a calorie deficient of 3500 per week (or 500 calories per day). It is best to discuss this with a doctor or dietitian to determine how many calories you currently consume, and your target number to help you lose weight. No matter what, you need to consume at least 1700 calories per day to ensure you get sufficient nutrients and calories. 

When creating a diet meal plan, do not opt for fad diets. Instead, choose nutrient-rich whole foods. Eat 6-10 servings of vegetables and fruit each day. Avoid eating any processed foods, and minimize any added sugar. Do not drink soda and sugary drinks; instead, drink mostly water. Choose healthy protein, like nuts and seeds, beans, legumes and chicken. Do not avoid fat; just make sure that you opt for healthy fats, especially the omega-3 fatty acids, as they are essential for brain development. An easy way to cut calories without cutting your nutrients is to forgo condiments, or at least cut back on how much you use.

How to Safely Exercise

Another way to help lose weight is to exercise. In general, exercise is thought as highly beneficial for mother and child during pregnancy. You just have to follow a few key guidelines to reduce the risk of undue stress that could lead to complications or a miscarriage.

First and foremost, you need to start gradually if you do not already have an exercise regime in place. You might need to make a few modifications to your regular routine if you have one. You want to aim for about 30 minutes per day of swimming, walking, running, yoga or similar activities. You want to avoid certain types of exercise, such as those that require balance, put you at risk of a fall, cause pain or are done on your back. Discuss exercising with your doctor, especially if you are new to exercising, to determine the best routine for you.  

Pregnant happy fitness person enjoy yoga practice at home. 

Pregnant happy fitness person enjoy yoga practice at home. 

A recent review study found that dieting while pregnant was safe using diet and/or exercise. You simply have to ensure that you do so safely and under the care of your doctor and/or a dietician. For more tips about having a healthy pregnancy and early childhood, follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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