Many women struggle with fears about weight gain during pregnancy. Gaining too much weight can lead to a number of complications, but so can not gaining enough. Let’s take a closer look at the importance of healthy weight gain during this exciting time.
So How Many Calories Does Your Baby Need?
Pop culture would have us believe pregnant women eat an endless supply of donuts, ice cream and other unhealthy foods. In many cases, this is cliche and doesn’t hold up to today’s moms-to-be who are committed to healthy pregnancies.
Just how many extra calories do you need to consume during pregnancy? A mere 300 calories delivers everything you need to support the growth and development of your baby. Considering that a healthy, active 130-pound woman’s daily caloric requirements come in just under 2,000 calories; an additional 300 calories is hardly the binge-fest you might have expected.
But it’s not just the number that matters. While 300 calories worth of cookies is a sugar-rush waiting to happen, 300 calories worth of lean proteins, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and fruits can optimize nutrition, provide essential fuel for your body, and lead to safer weight gain.
Weight Gain Matters
Gaining the right amount of weight is important — both for maternal and baby health. But the needs of all pregnant women are far from the same. While the general rule of thumb for women who begin their pregnancies with a healthy BMI is a weight gain of between 25 and 35 pounds, it varies for others, according to the March of Dimes. Underweight women may need to gain as many as 28 to 40 pounds during pregnancy, while overweight women should gain somewhere between 15 to 25. If you were obese before pregnancy, an 11 to 20 pound weight gain is optimal.
It’s no surprise that moms-to-be of multiples need to eat a bit more. Those who began their pregnancy at a healthy weight should gain between 37 and 54 pounds, overweight women should gain between 31 and 50 pounds, and obese women should gain between 25 and 42 pounds.
For all women, weight gain should begin slowly — under five pounds in the first trimester, to be exact. Weight gain should then pick up during the second and third trimesters. But don’t expect weight gain to be level and by the book, however; it may come in surprising spurts.
The Role of Exercise During Pregnancy
Under no circumstances should you attempt to lose weight during pregnancy. Exercising is important as a vital fitness and weight management technique, not as one for weight loss during pregnancy.
If you’re having trouble staying motivated to exercise as your pregnancy progresses, enlist a buddy for inspiration. Or treat yourself to stylish maternity workout clothes. These won’t just come in handy over the next few months, but will also be helpful after your baby’s birth when your body is still returning to its pre-pregnancy shape and size.
Why is Weight Gain Important During Pregnancy?
Women who don’t gain enough weight during pregnancy risk having a low birthweight baby. And while some low birthweight babies are healthy, others may suffer from a variety of health issues, such as respiratory, brain, heart and digestive problems. Low birthweight can even lead to vision loss. Many low birthweight babies require time in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU).
Gaining too much weight can also lead to low birthweight babies due to the increased risk of premature birth. But excess weight gain during pregnancy also comes with potential health problems for the mom-to-be, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
If you aren’t sure how much weight you should gain during your pregnancy, speak with your physician who can offer helpful guidance. Whatever your goal, you can support healthy weight gain by being aware of your caloric needs and weight gain requirements, as well as healthy lifestyle practices, such as eating right and exercising.
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