Expectant Mothers Losing Weight While Pregnant – FAQ

‘A pregnant woman has to eat for two.’ This phrase is like a proverb – people say it all the time. It is true that too much weight during pregnancy is a risk factor for gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, but pregnancy is not the time to lose weight. Gaining weight during pregnancy is discussed quite frequently, but losing weight while pregnant is also an important issue.

An expectant mother is most likely to remain healthy and bear a healthy baby if she follows a well-balanced diet. Normally, the average weight gain during pregnancy is 25 to 35 pounds. Therefore, pregnant women have to watch what they eat so that they don’t gain too much weight. But, how can expectant mothers know if they are gaining the right amount of weight or in what cases is it okay to lose weight during pregnancy?

Check this list of 10 most frequently asked questions to determine whether it is safe to lose weight while pregnant. Please, keep in mind that this article does not provide any medical advice on your condition; it is written based on pregnancy weight management books authored by medical practitioners and nutritionists (see references below). Every expectant mother should consult her doctor about pregnancy issues, including weight management. The information provided in this article is meant to be a general overview of potential discussions on losing weight while pregnant. You’re welcome to share your experiences, questions and findings in the comment section below the text.

Losing Weight While Pregnant

Frequently asked questions and answers

#1 – I started pregnancy overweight so I’m working on losing weight while pregnant. Is this okay?

Even if you started pregnancy overweight, no, losing weight while pregnant is not considered wise. If you began pregnancy with extra fat stores, you don’t need to gain that much weight. However, don’t forget that the baby needs a constant supply of glucose – this means that you need to consume enough food to gain weight at a slow and gradual pace from 4 weeks of pregnancy onward.

#2 – I started to eat healthy ever since I found out I was pregnant. I’ve been losing weight since I started this healthy diet – is this okay?

Not really. You should gain some weight while pregnant. It’s a good thing to eat healthy, but you need to eat more in order to gain some weight. Although it is common that overweight women start losing weight if they change to a more nutrient-dense diet, weight loss during pregnancy is not good for the baby.

#3 – How does weight loss during pregnancy affect the baby?

The baby is more affected by weight loss during pregnancy then the mother. It can mean that the baby is using too much fat for energy and not enough glucose. Other problems that may occur are a decrease of the maternal blood volume and insufficient delivery of nutrients and other substances needed by the baby – all of which can cause harmful metabolic stress for the baby.

#4 – I have to cut down weight because I’m gaining too much. What should I do?

The first thing to do if you are gaining too much weight is to determine why this is happening. For example, if you haven’t eaten much, but you’re still gaining weight more than you should, then it may be that you are retaining fluid. In this case you shouldn’t cut down your food intake. Consult your doctor about your concerns.

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#5 – I eat regularly, but I’m still losing weight. What are the possible causes of weight loss during pregnancy?

Weight loss can be caused by nausea and vomiting. Severe cases require close medical supervision. The frequency and severity of both nausea and vomiting can be reduced with:

  • snacking dry, high-carbohydrate foods before you get out of bed in the morning. Every expectant mother has her own, individual needs when it comes to best food choices, but eating stuff like crackers, dry toast or cereals is better than not eating and hence, not gaining any weight at all.

  • drinking fluids two hours after every meal. Liquids at mealtime should be avoided.

  • not using iron supplements (at least not in the first trimester) because these aggravate nausea and vomiting.

  • avoiding foods with offensive odors.

On the other hand, if you think you’re losing weight while pregnant due to sleep deprivation, think about getting a full body pregnancy pillow to exclude inadequate sleep as a risk marker for obesity.

#6 – If I can’t reduce my food intake because of fear of losing weight while pregnant, can I at least do exercise?

Exercise during pregnancy is generally considered acceptable and beneficial, but only if reduced in the amount and intensity (compared to normal exercise). Unless the pregnancy is characterized by medical complications, research has shown that cca. 30 minutes of exercise a day, more times a week, does not have a negative impact on the baby or pregnancy-related issues.

#7 – If I’m allowed to exercise, can I exercise vigorosuly to lose weight while pregnant?

No. Don’t exercise vigorously, especially if you haven’t been active for a long period of time. DON’T exercise:

• when the weather is hot and humid,
• when you’re sick or having a fever,
• on your back,
• if you feel any kind of pain.

#8 – Are there any alternatives to help me lose weight safely – without affecting the baby?

Yes. The following tools, effective weight loss alternatives, may be useful in losing weight while pregnant safely:

  • acupuncture, if used in combination with proper diet and exercise.
  • yoga
  • homeopathy is completely safe during pregnancy (according to the author Judyth L. Reichenberg-Ullman), but it will only occasionally promote weight loss.
  • walking and/or swimming,etc.

#9 – Is it true that preterm births and infant deaths are higher for underweight women?

Yes. Underweight women have a high risk of having a low birth weight infant, deliver earlier or encounter other problems. Overweight women normally give birth of healthier babies.

#10 Overweight vs. Obesity – What is the difference in pregnancy?

Obese pregnant women (BMI is 30.0 or higher before pregnancy) are those who have gained far too much weight; they have a high risk of medical complications such as postpartum infections and gestational diabetes. Labor and delivery are much more difficult compared to other women.

Overweight pregnant women (BMI is 25.0 to 29.9 before pregnancy) are likely to give birth post term, labor and delivery is difficult. Infants are large babies; they sometimes weigh more than 9 pounds and normally have poor health (compared to infants of normal weigh).

As mentioned earlier, expectant mothers must try to stay within 25 to 35 average weight gain. Those mothers-to-be expecting twins should gain 35 to 45 pounds.

Obese and overweight women should absolutely abandon thoughts about losing weight while pregnant; moreover, overweight women should gain about 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy, and obese women should gain about 11 to 20 pounds during pregnancy).

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Judith E. Brown (1998), Nutrition and Pregnancy, A Complete Guide from Preconception to Postdelivery, McGraw-Hill.

D. Lee Waller (2011), Sustainable Weight Loss, iUniverse.com

Ruth A. Roth (2010), Nutrition and Diet Theraphy, Delmar Cengage Learning.

Sharon Rady Rolfes, Kathryn Pinna, Ellie Whitney (2008), Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition, Brooks Cole.

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Expectant mothers, don’t try losing weight while pregnant!