When having a baby, weight gain is a natural part of the process, especially as your baby grows and develops inside the womb. However, gaining an additional controlled amount of weight is also important for a healthy pregnancy. This additional weight helps ensure the growing fetus has the necessary nutrients needed to properly develop and thrive. As you are approaching weight gain during pregnancy, it’s important to understand how much weight gain is considered healthy, as well as the best and most nutritious ways to go about gaining weight up until your delivery date.
Your Pre-Pregnancy Weight
How much weight you should put on during your pregnancy is dependent on your pre-pregnancy weight. If you’re starting at an average healthy weight, you should plan to gain between 2 and 4 pounds during the first trimester, with gaining an additional pound each week through the rest of your pregnancy. For those who are considered underweight by a medical professional, additional weight gain may be needed for a healthy pregnancy. This gain should range between 28 and 40 pounds. For those who are considered overweight by their doctor, a lesser weight gain of 15 – 20 pounds may be all that’s recommended.
The most important factor to keep in mind when trying to gain weight in a healthy way is balance. Your diet should be more focused on protein sources and less on your intake of sugar and fats. Continue to keep fruits and vegetables as a primary source of nutrition, but understand that you’ll need to increase other food groups in order to get enough calories for weight gain. Depending on your personal dietary needs and preferences, try to focus on healthier calorie sources. Add more meals and snacks full of whole grains, beans, and other legumes, nuts and seeds, and lean protein sources like chicken or lower fat cuts of meat.
When gaining weight, it’s also important to choose nutrient-rich foods. Vegetables and fruits across the rainbow of colors help ensure adequate vitamin and mineral intake to support fetal development, especially dark leafy greens. Calcium from low-fat dairy products like yogurt help ensure your baby has the calcium needed to grow healthy bones and teeth, while also protecting your own. Egg yolks are a rich source of choline for brain and nervous system development along with a host of other essential vitamins and minerals from vitamin A to biotin. Dr. Gilbert Webb, a maternal-fetal specialist, says it’s important to involve your doctor in your diet plans. Make sure you take into account your own body and needs.
You may find it difficult to eat enough healthy food for weight gain. A helpful tip is to increase the number of meals you’re eating throughout the day, and never skipping a meal. Aim to have five to seven meals and snacks each day, instead of the traditional three.
Foods to Avoid
Along with avoiding sugar or salt-filled packaged junk foods, it’s important to keep in mind other foods you should avoid or limit during your pregnancy. Raw meats, eggs, or fish should not be consumed due to the higher risk of salmonella infection and toxoplasmosis. Organizations like the American Pregnancy Association also suggest avoiding foods that increase your risks of contracting listeria, such as soft unpasteurized cheeses, unpasteurized milk and pate. Fish that are known to be high in mercury should also be avoided, especially shark, swordfish and tilefish.
Losing Weight During Pregnancy
If you’re severely overweight, your doctor may suggest that you actually lose weight during your pregnancy. This weight reduction is meant to help combat complications such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, as well as reduces the risks of needing a c-section. However, weight loss should always be under the supervision of a medical professional, such as a high risk obstetrician or maternal fetal specialist.
Pregnancy is a beautiful time for many women, and giving birth is what we all look forward to. The time in between should be focused on a healthy lifestyle and choices that help you and baby stay safe. Make sure you involve your doctor and ask what kind of weight you should be gaining or losing during your pregnancy.