It’s one thing to know that healthy weight gain is important during pregnancy, but it’s something entirely different to figure out how to make that healthy rate of weight gain happen. This is especially true for women whose health advice has never talked about weight gain before, and it gets even more complicated when taking the physical and hormonal changes that go along with pregnancy into account.
Below are five common pitfalls that can get in the way of that healthy rate of weight gain.
- Letting foods be “lazy”: The truth is that, with a lot of less healthy foods, the problem isn’t so much that they do something bad, it’s just that they don’t provide enough nutrients for the number of calories they take up in a day. Eating white bread isn’t going to hurt you, but it is going to add simple carbs and sodium to your diet without providing nearly as much of the fiber, protein, and vitamin B-6 that a piece of whole wheat bread would. A piece of white bread still gives you energy, but it doesn’t do as much else. Eating foods that multitask, providing a high concentration of nutrients as well as energy, is a great way to help keep your steady weight gain on track.
- Starting to increase weight gain too early: Unless you’re dealing with morning sickness (or even if you are), it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of pregnancy and start “eating for two” right away. But in the first trimester, pregnant women don’t need to gain much weight at all. Steady weight gain is important in the second and third trimesters, but if that steady gain starts too early, it’s easy to overshoot your target.
- Cutting out snacks: The trouble with cutting out snacking is that it usually comes with good intentions, since many common snack foods fall into the “less healthy” category. But overeating at meals as a result can lead to faster weight gain than you might expect. Instead, swapping out less nutritious snacks for snacks that pack a nutrient-punch, and keep you feeling full longer can actually slow weight-gain more than cutting out snacks entirely. Light, healthy snacking is also good for encouraging your metabolism to speed up, while waiting through long gaps between meals can slow it down, leading to more weight gain than you might have bargained for.
- Cutting down on exercise: It’s another problem that makes total sense, and can come from a place of trying to do the right thing – the physical changes that come with pregnancy can make exercise uncomfortable and harder than usual. More than that, though, depending on the type of exercise you usually get, exercising during pregnancy can be scary – for example, if you usually ride a bike everywhere, keeping up with your riding with a baby on the way can feel like an unnecessary risk. Exercise is a key ingredient for a healthy pregnancy, though. In some cases, it can make sense to adapt your exercise routine based on your pregnancy – contact sports are probably out until Baby is safely born, for example. Most types of exercise are perfectly healthy during pregnancy, however, although you may have to adapt your routine as your center of gravity shifts as your belly grows.
- The “eating for two” myth: It’s a catchy phrase, but “eating for two” seems to imply eating twice what you normally might, when the truth is that, at this point, the “second,” is pretty tiny, and doesn’t have a huge appetite. The truth is that women who started pregnancy in the average weight range generally only need to gain between 25 and 35 pounds total, while women who begin pregnancy underweight need to gain a little more, and women who begin pregnancy overweight need to gain a little less. More than that, most of this weight gain should happen in the second and third trimester.
Pregnancy can make weight management feel complicated, but the healthy choices that are important for steady, appropriate weight gain during pregnancy are also habits that can benefit your body postpartum and beyond.
- Committee on Obstetric Practice. “COMMITTEE OPINION, Weight Gain During Pregnancy.” American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, January 2013, reaffirmed 2016. Retrieved August 8 2017. https://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Weight-Gain-During-Pregnancy.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Pregnancy weight gain: What’s healthy?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, February 15 2017. Retrieved August 8 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-weight-gain/art-20044360.
- “Weight Gain During Pregnancy.” Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. October 14 2016. Retrieved August 8 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pregnancy-weight-gain.htm.