Key Tips to Losing Weight while Pregnant

Pregnancy results in considerable weight gain in women. Losing weight while pregnant is one of the sought after information for most women who are already pregnant or intend to get pregnant.

Before we start, we will have to understand obesity. Obesity is when an individual has a body mass index (BMI) of 30 and above, while overweight is a BMI of 25 to 29.9. BMI is calculated from height and weight (kg/m2), and can help to identify if a person is underweight, normal, overweight or obese.

Classification of Obesity

Obesity is divided into three major categories:

Obesity Category 1 BMI of 30 – 34.9
Obesity Category 2 BMI of 35 – 39.9
Obesity Category 3 BMI of 40 and higher
BMI ranges for obesity

Obesity is one of the leading risk factors in many diseases, and losing weight during pregnancy is a major way of reducing such risks.

As part of an effort to help in losing weight while pregnant, there are recommended weight gain values (BMI) that guide pregnant women to keep their weight in check.

Recommended Weight Gain for Pregnant Women With One Baby

Weight Before Pregnancy Recommended Weight Gain after Pregnancy
Underweight (BMI less than 18.5) 12 to 18 kg (28-40 pounds)
Normal Weight (BMI 18.5 – 24.9) 11 to 16 kg (25-35 pounds)
Overweight BMI 25.0 – 29.9 7 to 11 kg (15-25 pounds)
Obese BMI 30.0 or higher 5 to 9 kg (11- 20 pounds)
Source: CDC

Recommended Weight Gain for Pregnant Women With Twins, Triplets or Multiple Births

Weight Before Pregnancy Recommended Weight Gain after Pregnancy
Underweight (BMI less than 18.5) 23 to 28 kg (50-62 pounds)
Normal Weight (BMI 18.5 – 24.9) 17 to 25 kg (37-54 pounds)
Overweight BMI 25.0 – 29.9 14 to 23 kg (31-50 pounds)
Obese BMI 30.0 or higher 11 to 19 kg (25-42 pounds)
Source: CDC

Risk of obesity during pregnancy

Some health problems associated with obesity during pregnancy are:

Hypertension (gestational hypertension) during the second half of pregnancy, preeclampsia (a more serious gestational hypertension that occurs during the second half of pregnancy or at birth). It can lead to liver or kidney failure, and other complications such as stroke, heart attack, seizures, fetal growth issues.

Other diseases are gestational diabetes (diabetes occurring during pregnancy, resulting in large babies). It can reduce a woman’s likelihood of normal birth, while increasing the risk of Caesarean birth.

Obstructive sleep apnea can also occur. This condition, which results in a periodic stoppage of breathing during sleeping, can increase risks of high blood pressure, other heart and lung conditions, and preeclampsia.

Effects of Obesity on the Unborn Child

Obesity during pregnancy can also result in stillbirths (birth of dead foetus), macrosomia (unusually large babies that can cause injury to the mother at birth, or cause the birth to be achieved through Caesarean birth).

Another issue is preterm baby (born at less than 37 weeks of pregnancy). A baby born before 39 weeks of pregnancy is not fully developed. Preterm babies are born early in medical conditions such as preeclampsia associated with mothers who are obese.

Obesity in mothers also increases the risk of birth defects in baby, such as neural tube defects (poor development of baby’s brain and spinal cord), and heart defects.

Some diagnostic tests such as ultrasound and checking of baby’s heart rate is difficult in obese women due to the large layer of fat tissues.

Losing weight while pregnant

Though women who are obese can still deliver safely, losing weight while pregnant has a lot of health benefits and positive psychological effect on the woman.

Always try to check your weight on each prenatal visit to make sure you are normal. If needed, they could make some adjustments to your dieting.

In some women, if losing weight while pregnant cannot be achieved through a purposeful healthy lifestyle, it is advisable to go for a surgical procedure called Bariatric surgery, 12 to 24 months before pregnancy.

In some cases, your doctor might offer a weight loss medication. It is important to note that you must not be pregnant, or planning to get pregnant, while on weight loss medication.

Best Diet during Pregnancy:

A pregnant woman in her second and third trimester should control the calorie intake to 300 extra calories per day. Ideally, it should be 340 calories per day during the second trimester, and 450 calories per day during the third trimester.

Healthy fruits, vegetables, proteins, whole grains, fat-free, or low-fat dairy products are good choices in weight loss program.

Avoid beverages and foods high in sodium, added sugar and saturated fats.

Consume high protein food such as beans, lean meat, poultry, eggs, seafoods, nuts, peas and lentils.

While seafoods are good protein source during pregnancy and breastfeeding, make sure you chose the ones with lower methyl mercury such as cod, tilapia, salmon, herring.

Your doctor can also recommend some vitamins and mineral supplements during pregnancy

Avoid any form of unpasteurized or raw milk or juice, raw sprouts, soft cheese made from unpasteurized milk

Alcoholic products such as wine, liquor, beer, malt beverages should be totally avoided during pregnancy.

Caffeinated products such as tea, coffee and soda are not recommended.

Exercises during Pregnancy

Some mild exercises can help in losing weight while pregnant. A woman who already engages in physical activities such as jogging, dancing or running can still maintain the routine during pregnancy. However, you must consult your obstetrician–gynaecologist to make sure you can carry on with such exercises.

It is advisable to start with a mild exercise of 5 minutes daily, progressing to a further 5 minutes with new weeks. You should strive to achieve at least 30 minutes of activity every day. This should combine to become a weekly routine of at least 150 minutes aerobic exercises.

The moderate intensity aerobic exercises that are good during pregnancy are brisk walking, and activities like digging, weeding.

Swimming and workout in water is also good. Water helps to support the body and avoid muscle strain or injury.

Riding a stationary bicycle is also a good exercise as conventional bicycle can cause accidents in pregnancy due to weight gain and lack of balance. However, avoid yogas that warrant you to be still or lie on your back for long.

Some modified yoga and Pilates for pregnancy can reduce stress, increase flexibility, breathing and balance.

Yoga Losing Weight while Pregnant
Photo by Yan Krukov from Pexels

When to Avoid Exercises in Pregnancy

Pregnant women with certain conditions cannot carry out exercises.

Such conditions are severe anaemia, preeclampsia, some lung and heart conditions, placenta previa after 26 weeks of pregnancy (closing of the uterus by the placenta), preterm labour or ruptured membrane (water is broken), pregnancy with twins, triplets, or more and cerclage (closing of cervical opening with stitches to delay or stop preterm labour)

When exercising to lose weight in pregnancy, be observant of any changes in your body such as headache, chest pain, muscle weakness, vaginal bleeding, dizziness, shortness of breath, fluid leak from the vagina, pain or swelling in the calf and regular painful contraction of the uterus

Exercises to Avoid in Pregnancy

As much as some exercises are vital in losing weight while pregnant, there are some routines that might be harmful to pregnancy. Some of them include:

Scuba diving, skydiving, activities performed at high altitude (above 6000 ft), hot yoga or hot pillages that can cause overheating of the body.

Contact sports activities such as football, boxing, basketball, jud that lead to physical contact or risk of hitting the abdomen.

Other sports that can cause falling accidents such as horse riding, water-skiing, gymnastics, snow skiing, surfing, off-road cyclin are not recommended.


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