Weight, Nutrition and Exercise in Pregnancy

When women become pregnant, many wonder how much weight they should expect to gain, what foods are good choices, how to exercise safely and, of course, how to get back to your pre-baby weight.

The recommendations on weight gain below are based on your pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI). If you are unsure of your BMI, calculate it here.

Here are the general guidelines for weight gain throughout your pregnancy (for one baby):

BMI less than 18.5: 28 – 40 pounds

BMI 18.5 – 24.9: 25 – 35 pounds

BMI 25-29.9: 15 – 25 pounds

BMI more than 30: 11 – 20 pounds

With these guidelines in mind, know that every woman is different. When a woman gains too much or too little weight during pregnancy there could be increased risks to her and the baby that should be discussed with an OB provider.

It is important to be mindful about food choices when you are pregnant to maintain health. In the first trimester, a woman generally does not need any extra calories. In the second trimester, increase by about 300 calories and in the third trimester about 400 calories additional per day. Unsure about how many calories your body needs? Check out this calorie calculator from the Mayo Clinic.

It’s important to eat well-balanced meals throughout pregnancy consisting of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils. Think more whole foods and little processed foods. Be mindful of foods with high amounts of added sugars and sodium. No one is saying you can’t give in to a craving every once in a while! Eating well is about balance, not about restriction.

Continuing an exercise routine reaps many benefits, especially during pregnancy. 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week is recommended, which can be broken down to 30 to 60 minutes of exercise 3 to 4 days a week. Here are some exercises that are safe in pregnancy:

  • Walking
  • Aerobic exercises
  • Weight/resistance exercises
  • Stretching
  • Water aerobics

Consult your OB provider if you have any questions about your current exercise regime or upon starting a new exercise regime. Rule of thumb – listen to your body and ease into any new exercises.

Exercising during pregnancy offers several benefits, such as increasing your chance of a vaginal delivery and decreasing excessive weight gain, as well as, preventing gestational diabetes, gestational hypertensive disorders, preterm birth, cesarean delivery and low birth weight in infants.

Pregnancy isn’t always comfortable, and some aches and pains are normal, including round ligament pain and back pain. Various stretches (cat cow, downward dog, butterfly stretch, etc.) can help alleviate these aches, and, if needed, physical therapy can be prescribed. Warning signs to stop include vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, contractions, amniotic fluid leaking, chest pain, dizziness, headache, calf pain or swelling and muscle weakness. Consult your OB provider if any of these symptoms occur and persist.

Overall, exercising can lead to a happy and healthy pregnancy!

Once you have given birth and have the go ahead to start exercising again, take it easy. Getting back to your pre-pregnancy weight may take a while, and that is OK! Be gentle with yourself; you are sleep deprived and healing. Restricting calories is not recommended, especially if you are breastfeeding. Let go of the social stigma to bounce back quickly.

Bridgette Hamby, R.D.N., is the community nutrition educator in the Tevis Center for Wellness, and Kiersten Smith is a certified nurse midwife at Capital Women’s Care. 

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