Nutrition plays an important role during pregnancy for both the mother and her child. A healthy diet ensures that both mother and baby receive adequate nutrients and that the baby grows and develops properly. Pregnant women should eat a variety of healthy foods, meet folic acid requirements and gain an appropriate amount of weight.
What is healthy weight gain?
Weight gain during pregnancy is often a confusing issue for mothers, who want to ensure that they are meeting their baby's needs. I recently had a friend who was in the first trimester of her pregnancy mention that she was concerned that she was not gaining enough weight. Despite reports to the contrary, the misconception that one must "eat for two" still exists. This "eat for two" mentality can lead to an unhealthy weight gain.
Experts recommend that a woman who's pre-pregnancy weight is in the healthy range gain only 3 to 5 pounds during the first trimester and then approximately 1 to 2 pounds per week for the remainder of per pregnancy.
The general weight gain recommendations for a woman expecting one baby are (starting pre-pregnancy):
- If you are underweight, you should gain about 28 to 40 pounds
- If you are normal weight, you should gain about 25 to 35 pounds
- If you are overweight, you should gain about 15 to 25 pounds
- If you are obese, you should gain at least 15 pounds
Take note...this is an important one: During the first trimester of your pregnancy, you do not need to increase the number of calories you consume. While the recommended weight gain during pregnancy varies according to pre-pregnancy weight, for most women it only requires an additional 300 calories per day for the last 6 months of the pregnancy.
Check out these examples of healthy foods that provide an additional 300:
- § 1 slice of whole wheat toast with 2 tablespoons peanut butter.
- § 1 cup of cereal with a small banana and ½ cup skim milk.
- § 1 cup of fat-free fruit yogurt and an apple.
- § 3 ounces of lean meat and ½ a sweet potato.
If you are underweight, overweight or obese before you become pregnant, or if you are pregnant with more than one baby, you may require a different number of calories. So be sure to speak with your healthcare provider.
Too much weight, possible complications
If you gain too much weight you may have an uncomfortable pregnancy and delivery. But it can also lead to more serious complications, such as:
- Gestational diabetes
- Leg pain
- Increased fatigue
- Varicose veins
- Increase risk of Cesarean delivery
- High blood pressure
While too much weight gain can lead to complications, it is very important that you do not try to lose weight while pregnant. Restricting calories may prevent your baby from getting the nutrients he needs to grow.