Weight Gain During Pregnancy

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Losing weight while pregnant?

March 2007

I was wondering if there is anyone out there who might have advice on losing weight during pregnancy. I just found out I am pregnant and I was in the middle of a weight loss program. I am about 20 pounds overweight. I would love to get through this pregnancy with only baby weight gain and possibly losing my own fat and giving it to the baby. In other words, gain minimal weight while pregnant but still having a healthy baby.

I am currently eating very healthy and clean and exercising (listening to my body). But I was wondering if anyone has heard of it being possible to lose one's own fat while pregnant. I would love to only gain about 10 pounds during this pregnancy which would mean once I had the baby I will be at my target weight.

Thanks for your help! And I do not have an eating disorder so that is not an issue for me. I am eating healthy. Just wondering about the weight loss issue. Thanks! Anon

No, darling. This is about the baby, not about you and your vanity. You will have to wait until after your baby arrives healthy to start your weight-loss regimen. Nobody, but nobody, has a baby and ends up at her target weight -- that's just not how it works.

I think it's great you are posing this question, which I was curious about as well when pregnant. My best advice is to put aside any weight loss plans until after the pregnancy. Everyone's body responds so differently to pregnancy -- some people eat alot and don't gain much, some people eat moderately and gain alot. It's not totally in your control. So I think weight loss during pregnancy would be potentially totally frustrating, and your number one job is to be healthy. It took me one year to lose my pregnancy weight, and then I lost another 10 pounds just from being so busy and chasing a busy child around. happy pregnancy

Restricting weight gain during pregnancy can be unhealthy for your baby (increased risk of preterm delivery and low birthweight). Current weight gain guidelines are 25-35 pounds for normal weight and 15-25 pounds for overweight women. If you are not obese, pregnancy is not a time to try to lose fat, although with gestational diabetes they recommend a diet that restricts weight gain in the 3rd trimester. A mom and pregnancy researcher

You must not lose weight while pregnant. It's bad for the baby. Just gain the minimum of 25 to 30 lbs. then use your breastfeeding time to lose the weight. And relax, lady, eat well and enjoy the amazing changes in your body. Why put pressure on yourself to lose weight during this special time? Fatty

Pregnancy is no time for vanity and it is most certainly no time for weight loss. When I got pregnant with my son, I was very healthy and active but also about 70 lbs. ''overweight'' by the charts. My doctor told me to stay active but NOT to try to lose weight. You can continue your diet after you have your baby. While you do not need to ''eat for two'' you do need extra calories and good fats and carbs for brain development. Just like you can't target a specific body part with a diet (i.e. only losing weight in your thighs) you can't target pre-baby weight. Many women lose a little weight in their first trimester due to morning sickness but this should not continue into the second trimester. Any pregnancy book will tell you that even clinically ''obese'' women (which you are not) need to gain about 25-30 lbs. during pregnancy. To be honest, you will gain more than 10 lbs. in water weight alone. Don't sacrifice your fetuses development to your own body anxiety. Your baby only gets 9 months to develop in the womb and you (like so many women) can dedicate the rest of your life to those pesky 20 lbs. anon

This actually can be done. I was about 30 pounds overweight when I got pregnant. I gained a total of 20 pounds, while eating very healthy (think actually following the eating plan in ''What to Expect...''), and walking a lot. I lost all of it, plus about 10 more pounds, by 6 weeks after delivery (I had no physical problems and was out walking in the hills around my house 3 days after coming home). I ended up 30 pounds lighter than before I got pregnant. The trick for me was just not to think about how much I was/wasn't gaining. Instead, I was thinking about getting the proper nutrients into my body for my baby. I ate a LOT of vegetables and fruit, drank a LOT of skim milk, and made sure I had some lean protein and some whole grain carbs. It was, surprisingly, not that hard. The fact that after delivery I was nursing a very hungry baby probably helped lose the last 10 pounds, too. Karen

I am sure you will receive posts about how you are not supposed to diet during pregnancy. However, having only a modest weight gain while pregnant will often result in a net loss when you finally deliver the baby. I did not gain much weight during my pregnancies and found the most helpful eating plan to be small, frequent, nutritious meals and cutting out the simple sugars and just general junk food. I also made sure to walk everyday, which helped. My biggest craving was ice cream, but I found brands that were lower in fat and calories and indulged in those. Good luck! anon

I can totally sympathize with your situation. Eating healthy is a great idea. However, consciously trying to lose weight while you're pregnant is not.

Here are a few reasons: (1) studies have shown that babies who are deprived in the womb tend to become overweight adults; (2) pregnancy takes a huge toll on your body - the baby will take what it needs from you, but as a result, you may not get enough. You can do a lot of damage to your body this way. (3) by not gaining weight, it doesn't necessarily mean you are losing weight - it might mean that your baby isn't gaining instead. Low birthweight babies face significant health risks in life.

I'm sure all of us wish we'd been lighter before getting pregnant, and I'll tell you, no matter how much you weigh now, you'll be shocked by what you're gonna weigh later! But it's temporary and it doesn't necessarily signal extra pounds later - many women I know ended up at a lower weight than pre-pregnancy, mostly because of extended breastfeeding, which requires even more calories than pregnancy! Besides, even if you want to lose weight or limit your gain during pregnancy, you might not be able to because your body has other plans, so why set yourself up for failure?

Eating healthy, as you are doing, is important and will help you establish good habits for the future. But don't read too much into gaining weight during pregnancy -- it's not a sign of poor health, but the opposite. Focus on taking care of yourself and the baby, and deal with the weight issues later. --just focus on the good

I'm guessing this is your first baby... Frankly, I don't think what you are looking to do is a good idea. The best idea is to put off your weight loss goals until after the pregnancy. I understand how you feel - I started my first pregnancy 20 pounds overweight. I didn't want to add more weight to that but I eventually had to accept that my body and the baby were controlling how much weight I gained, not me. The most important thing is eating healthy for the baby - you will not regret the weight you gain because it comes off easily later with breastfeeding, etc. In my experience, pregnancy changed both my body and the way I thought about food and I couldn't have stuck to any kind of weight loss program during that time. Really - worrying about it is counterproductive (you will have enough to worry about!). Try to enjoy your pregnancy as much as possible - your body will go back to normal and any extra weight will come off later. anon

One does not have to suffer from an eating disorder to have an unhealthy or even dangerous approach to eating. Your weight gain is not a danger to you or your baby, so there is no medical reason to lose weight. Biology causes us to gain weight when we are pregnant. There is a reason for it which includes the health and safety of the fetus. What an obvious statement.... Worrying about your insignificant weight gain takes away from the true beauty of what is going on in your life. anon

I have to chime in. Your question sounded like you just didn't KNOW, not that you were being vain. It is true that you shouldn't diet - and I'm sure your doctor has already told you that. In fact, places like Weight Watchers make you quit immediately when you learn you are pregnant. But, you can be careful & not indulge sweet or ''grease'' cravings and the like with junk food. Just take care of your body, eat what's required of you for the baby's health and well-being and make a vow that you'll get back on track when the baby is here. And, please all, let's remember that this is a friendly exchange. -Congrats to you on your pregnancy!

Weight gain with 2nd baby

April 2004

I know it's normal to get big faster the second time around, but I'm only 22 weeks and look like I did at 6 1/2 - 7 months, with my first pregnancy! I've already gained about 20 pounds, and don't know how to slow it down! The first problem was I ate non-stop through the first 4 months, because it was the only thing that relieved the 24-hr nausea. But when the nausea abated around 4 months, my appetite did not. I still want to eat all the time. Secondly, I've been exhausted (I'm in my very late 30's, after all!), have almost no time to exercize due to a 10-hr. a day job, 1.5 hours of commuting and a 2 year old waiting for me at home. (I try to walk with her as much as possible on weekends.) I am trying to work a lunch time walk into my routine, because I know that exercize is a big part of the story.

I eat very healthy foods for most meals; I'm a vegetarian, but I'm including a little fish to up the protein intake while pregnant and breastfeeding, BUT: I am addicted to sugar! That's a big part of what I'm indulging in all day long between meals: cookies, pastries, ice cream, chocolate - you name it.

Does anyone have ANY advice for how to break this cycle of constantly needing to have something (preferably sweet) in my mouth?! I don't know how anyone gets control over indulging their eating impulses. I've never had a weight problem in my life. My doctor is not concerned, but I would really love to find a way to slow down the hoovering. I read somewhere that a pregnant woman really only needs about 300 add'l calories per day - I must be getting 1200! How can I stop this ravenous appetite?

Any advice appreciated. the Human Vacuum

Dear Human Vacuum,

I am a nutrition and fitness counselor specializing in addictions. It sounds like you definintely are dealing with a sugar and refined carbohydrate addiction. It is hard to combat but definitely attainable!

Here are a few suggestions:

Check the labels on your cereals, salad dressings, soups, anything in a can or package for sugar. Even if it reads ''organic dehydrated cane juice,'' it's still sugar! Consuming these doses of sugar in the staples you eat every day will make you crave more. See if you can start phasing out these hidden sugar foods.

Switch from white bread to whole wheat, especially with the bagels. Switch from white pasta and rice to whole wheat or quinoa pasta (avail at most stores in Berkeley) and brown rice. The whole grains will slow the sugar being absorbed into your blood stream and you'll avoid the high and then the crash to low blood sugar that happens when eating refined carbs.

Stock your kitchen with plenty of organic fruits. You might try small quantities of organic dried fruits (still very high in sugar, yet fructose is easier for your body to handle than refined sugars.)

Add seaweeds into your diet. Dulse can be sprinkled onto your salads. Kombu can be cooked in with your whole grains. Seaweeds are rich in the minerals your body needs to keep blood sugar stable. If your blood sugar is stable, you are less likely to crave sweets.

Finally, you may want to check out Julia Ross's book called The Diet Cure. There is a section about how amino acid supplements can help with various cravings. (Please check with your doctor regarding the safety of supplementing with amino acids while pregnant.) The theory is that people experience cravings because of depleted brain chemistry from years of eating refined foods, stress, etc. By supplementing with certain amino acids, your body is able to make the neurotransmitters necessary to enhance mood. (This may help with your chocolate cravings especially.) Also, please remember that chocolate does contain caffeine and may affect your unborn baby.

Best of luck to you! The first step is definitely the cultivation of awareness around your problem foods. It sounds like you're on the right track.

If you have any additional questions, or would like to schedule a free introductory session with me, please visit my web site: Sylvie

Last year I had my first baby. I was 34, physically fit (did my spinning class twice a week until 8 months along), ate quite alot and gained only 3 pounds the first trimester. The next trimester I gained 20 pounds and, low and behold, when I had by glucose tolerance test I was borderline gestational diabetic (my doctor called it 'carbohydrate intolerant'). She told me that if I didn't reduce the carbs to 40% of my diet that I could have a 10 pound baby. In addition, she told me I needed to walk 5 times a week. I increased (by alot) the amount of protein I ate, I cut out bread and sweets (I would eat a Luna protein bar when I craved something sweet and allowed myself to have dessert on Friday nights) and exercised 4-5 times a week. By doing that I only gained 2 pounds the next trimester (even though I still ate ALOT) and had a healthy 6 pound 14 oz baby. You might have gestational diabetes or be borderline like I was and just not know it because you haven't been tested yet. I would suggest that you modify your diet and put that toddler in the stroller and walk in the evenings. BTW a friend who is a serious runner had a 10 pound baby the first time around (although she was swimming an hour a day when she was pregnant she was also eating a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream every day!!). The second time she was borderline like me and told me that 'she was just laying off the ice cream'. After I told her how much I had modified my diet, she changed her diet and had an 8 pound baby boy. Good luck :)

Hey, Ms. Vacuum,

If you keep gaining at the rate you're at now, you'll only have put on about 45 pounds by the end, which isn't too tragic- sounding. If you've never had a weight problem, you'll probably get most of that off afterwards without too much trouble. What everyone's told me about my own pregnancy sugar cravings is that they are ''really'' my body crying out for more protein. Maybe you can increase the milk and eggs in the sweet food you consume... amazingly rich chocolate pots de creme come to mind, which take a second to make and will last a week in your fridge. Also mousse made with premium bittersweet chocolate, melted and then blended with silken tofu. A little of these will go a long way. Heck, even chocolate-covered almonds...

But from the way you explained everything you're going through, it seems to me that you're using sugar to medicate some pretty stressful circumstances in your life, that seem too threatening or difficult to address directly, and framing the ''problem'' instead as one of you ''misbehaving'' with snacks and needing more ''control.'' I know how it feels to just want to binge. There's that aspect of eating as respite, in response to the rest of your day leaving you squeezed and slammed. And that sense of ''deserving'' dessert, of jeez I'm pregnant and this second time around I'm not being treated like royalty the way I (sort of) was the first time, so I'll ''treat'' myself to these snacks. (I have to admit that as a meat eater, I feel I have a lot more options for ''healthier'' ways to overindulge, like bacon cheeseburgers and greasy dim sum. More protein than cake, is what I figure.) And there's even that idea that much as another child is going to be wonderful, it's going to take that much energy and focus away from ME and my needs... even my own body is on loan to this little one inside, and will be for a long time, so at least this yummy piece of cake is just for ME.

You didn't mention whether you have a partner. If you're doing all this working and commuting and caring for a 2-year-old as a single mom, well wow then, who wouldn't want a bunch of donuts every day just to get through it? And if you DO have a partner, then the very fact that you didn't say anything about him/her makes me wonder a whole bunch of things, like, why isn't he/she letting you put your feet up for twenty minutes when you get home? Is she/he giving you a hard time about your weight, overtly or covertly? Come on, you're pregnant, somebody should be cutting you a break, either your partner or you yourself. It's easier to wrap your mind around ''oh my god I'm eating out of control, I have to get back in control'' than ''my life is out of control and I don't even have time for a good cry about it;'' easier to say ''I don't know how to slow down my eating'' than ''I don't know how to slow down the demands that are being placed on me.''

When I reach for a chocolate-covered graham cracker (or three) from my secret stash, all these thoughts and more go through my own mind, about exactly what kind of hunger I'm trying to satisfy. And I'm working on all different kinds of stuff, in my life and my relationship, but I'm not denying myself the chocolate-covered graham crackers along the way. I'm not drinking, I'm not eating sushi or oysters, heck I'm not doing drugs, it's only a few cookies, and in the end who gives a hoot; it's not going to stop me from being a good person or a good mom if I get really tubby before I have this baby. I deserve to treat myself well, and I try to make the treats I give myself be of the very highest quality, so that they feel like luxuries rather than slumming.

Hope any of this helps-- Heidi

I think you'll get varied responses to your question and I'm looking forward to reading them. The reason I decided to respond was to tell you that I, too, ate lots of bad stuff during my pregnancies (more with each successive pregnancy - I had three babies.) I'm not telling you it's a good thing to do, necessarily, just telling you that I did it. I felt cranky and hungry all the time and felt entitled to eat chocolate.

My babies were fine, I was fine, my doctor wasn't worried about it. I gained 40-45 pounds each pregnancy and after the baby was born, had about 25-30 to lose. I did lose it. It wasn't easy and while I was working on losing the weight I cursed myself for eating all that Dreyers Grand Light Rocky Road - which, as it turns out, is only ''light'' if you don't eat the whole tub in one sitting. Who knew??

During my second pregnancy a good friend of mine was also pregnant, four months behind me. She's an MD. I was b*tching about how much I was gaining (I'm sure this was with a mouthful of ice cream) and she said ''Don't worry about it. It's just your pregnancy pattern.'' And you know, she was right. I gained the same amount every time, and every time I managed to take it back off.

I hope this is helpful to you. In hindsight, I wish I hadn't stressed out as much about it and just enjoyed my indulgences more. I do recommend Weight Watchers post-partum - and nursing your baby is enormously helpful, too. ice cream junkie

Have you been checked for gestational diabetes? You mention that you are older -- and usually they check at the beginning of the third trimester -- but a couple of the things you mention might be symptomatic (exhaustion and constant hunger), so maybe you should be checked now. This is especially important if you find you are very thirsty, or going to the bathroom a lot more than you expect. Karen

I also gained a surprising amount of weight (w/my 1st pregnancy) and can't imagine what will happen if there's a 2nd. I felt self-conscious and like I should have been doing more exercise and less eating, but just couldn't control my needs to lay around (3rd trimester) and self-medicate nausea w/eating (1st trimester). But, I am now 4.5 mos post partum and have easily lost abt. 50 pounds. I gained 60. My advice to you is to surrender to your body and know that the weight will come off. LIke you said, you've never had a weight problem before and you're not likely to if you return to your normal eating and exercise patterns when you are no longer pregnant. The alternative is to fight unavoidable weight gain and to feel frustration. Good luck. Wish I hadn't been so hard on myself

I too have been a lifelong sugar junkie (as well as a hypoglycemic); but I recently got what turned out to be a revelatory recommendation.

The wise holistic chiropractor I have been seeing off and on to treat ongoing back pain from bearing two kids recently said, after prodding my leg, ''You're not getting enough protein. What did you eat yesterday?'' And when I recited a list that included yogurt, nuts, sliced turkey, cheese, and pork loin (along with cookies, ice cream, and chocolate covered raisins), she said: ''I want you to go straight to Berkeley Bowl and get some protein powder. Make a shake with it every morning.''

Sure enough--that powder mixed with some milk, juice, yogurt, and fruit, is enough to sustain me from 8 in the morning until 2 without any thought of snacking. And when I do get sugar cravings now, they're more from habit than from hunger, and are thus easier to ignore.

There are a large range of protein powders on the market. I first tried whey powder, and then switched to brown rice when the staffer at Berkeley Bowl recommended it as the powder with the highest concentration of protein. Perhaps this will help you, too? d.

I know what you mean about being a sugar addict. It's a tough one to break ---but you can do it! I believe your weight gain and exhaustion is directly related to how much of sugars you are consuming. The sugar builds up your energy and then you crash, leading you down the path of no return. ( This not only includes the candy, but also the 'breads' like cookies and cake.) The best advice I can give is to substitute with fruit, even if you shudder at the thought. Go to the store and buy a weeks worth/few days worth of fun and easy to eat fruit, such as blueberries, strawberries, dried apricots, raisens. Also get mango, oranges and apples. In the mornings prepare the big fruit: slice the apples, cut up the mango and wedge the oranges. Bring it all with you to work and snack on this instead! This will keep your energy level at a steady level, it's great for you, and WILL break the cycle of sugar addiction. Do not cave in and take just one bite of a candybar or cake or whatever. This might be tough in the beginning, what isn't, right? But you'll really feel the difference. fruit lover

My advice is to relax. Your doctor is not concerned, you're not susceptible to weight problems, and in my opinion, during pregnancy you really ought to just follow your cravings. :-)

FWIW, my hunger-and-fatigue experience with my *first* pregnancy was a lot like yours. I gained more than 20 pounds in my FIRST trimester, and about 45 pounds overall. The extra weight, and then some, melted off in the six months following my baby's birth without my really thinking about it or doing anything special in the way of diet or exercise (yay for exclusive breastfeeding!).

The one caution I would say is that sugar cravings and rapid weight gain CAN be a sign of gestational diabetes. So you'll want to monitor that pretty carefully. Otherwise, go eat some more cookies. :-) anon

The answer to your problem is Weight Watchers. You need to get yourself into a sensible, structured weight loss program.

I wound up 35 pounds overweight with my second and the doc said it was OK, just try to eat less cheese. But I felt bad about the weight and was gaining more while I breastfed. I had also put on weight with my first and back then, was told by a nutritionist that I had one of those bodies that couldn't lose weight while breastfeeding.

Two months after my second baby was born, I got fed up and started going to WW weekly. I did what they told me to the best of my ability. I was far from perfect in following their recommendations and still steadily lost 1 pound of weight per week on average. At first I thought the ''motivational speaking'' and gold stars for losing 5 pounds at WW was a little goofy. But I got over that quick when the pounds started peeling off.

The 35 pounds came off gradually and steadily over about 7 months and without a huge hassle, and I still breastfed safely. I have not gained any of it back in the year since I met my 35- pound goal and it has not been hard to maintain the weight loss. I went from a tight size 14 to an 8. I'm 43 and feel great that I'm not carrying excess baggage along for the rest of my life. Even my husband lost weight by osmosis, just because I started cooking more nutritious meals.

The WW approach is to train you to take care of yourself for life, and to lose weight slowly and keep it off. You don't eat special food that only they sell, or eat only protein, or some other gimmick that you could only sustain for a few months. Instead, they retrain you to eat right and exercise. Much of the good advice you already received about carb addiction, nutrition, exercise and the right attitude is all rolled up into the WW program. What's nice about WW is that they got nutritionists, exercise people and psychologists to put all of their collective wisdom into one system that's relatively easy to learn. If you are interested, you can find a meeting close to you on their web site. Anonymous

How much overweight counts as high risk pregnancy?

Jan 2002

I had a baby 20 months ago with a midwife at Alta Bates. We are thinking about getting pregnant again, but weigh more than I did the first time. I remember something about midwifes not taking high risk pregnancies, and wondered if anyone knew or was denied help from a midwife because they weighed too much. If so, can you tell me how much you were overweight. I have been dieting for several months, actually my entire life, but am not sure how far I need to go before I am not considered a high risk, or if even I am a risk. I am 30 years old, and in wonderful health otherwise. Anonymous please

I was 160 before my first (hospital birth). I think I was 195 when he was born. I consider 155-160 to be my ideal weight.
I think I started my second pregnancy at 185 (homebirth).
I think I started my 3rd pregnancy at 220 (homebirth)
I started my 4th pregnancy at 230 (homebirth).
The good news is that I am now 194 and coming back down. I never considered myself high risk. I'm sure the midwives didn't either. If a midwife thinks you are high risk simply for this factor, that is a good midwife to avoid. K