If you’re worried about gaining pregnancy weight, then you’re not alone. In fact, some women experience concerns about pregnancy weight gain, so they try to get a head start on postpartum weight loss. Others may already have started a weight loss regimen pre-pregnancy and want to know if it’s safe to keep it up. But, is it safe to lose weight while pregnant? We’ve turned to prenatal and postpartum specialists to give us the answer.
Can I lose weight while pregnant?
The answer to this common question depends on your weight prior to your pregnancy. Aaptiv trainer Candice Cunningham, ACE CPT, and pre and postnatal specialist says, “If you are at a healthy weight prior to pregnancy then you shouldn’t try to lose once pregnant. Your body needs some extra support, so to speak, as the baby grows, so typical weight gain is normal.” Dahlas Fletcher, pre and postnatal exercise specialist at Bodyfabulous Fitness agrees. She explains,
“Weight loss during pregnancy would only be beneficial for women who are extremely overweight or obese. For the health of you and your baby, you may want to skip trying to lose weight while pregnant, but that doesn’t mean that you should stop exercising.”
However, you need to consult your doctor first before making any decisions. If your doctor does deem it safe for you to lose weight while pregnant, then he or she can determine how much is appropriate. Usually, this will be based on your Body Mass Index (BMI). Your doctor will also keep you under strict supervision to monitor both your process and baby’s growth.
Can I still exercise to manage my weight?
While it is not advisable to try and lose weight while pregnant, unless approved by your doctor, exercise is still important to keep healthy and fit. Cunningham says, “During your first trimester, most workouts are still okay, as long as you’re cleared by your doctor. However, you never want to start something new once you find out you’re pregnant because of unwanted stress it can put on your body.”
“Beginners should start by exercising ten minutes at a time and slowly build up to 30 minutes a day for three to five days per week,” recommends Fletcher. “Don’t go for the burn, and don’t exercise to exhaustion.”
What exercises are safe to do for weight management?
In the second trimester, Cunningham advises that you stay away from supine movements, that is, exercises such as push-ups, planks, crunches, and sit-ups. You don’t want to increase the risk of diastasis recti, which refers to a bulge or “pooch” in the stomach.
You also need to make sure that the exercises you do are pelvic floor safe. Cunningham says, “You have to pay attention to impact or really wide lateral movements towards the second/third trimester, due to relaxin and other hormonal shifts and increases occurring,” she says. “Relaxin, in particular, is released to aid in pelvic expansion in our hips for actual labor, but can cause unwanted dislocations, as well, if you do too much prior to.” So try swimming or low-impact aerobics classes for cardio. Water aerobics is also a really great option, not to mention fun!
But, make sure you don’t neglect strength training. Building your strength is so important, especially while you’re pregnant. As Fletcher highlights, mothers have a lot of carrying to do—groceries, boxes of diapers, and a baby (or two). Strength training can really help prepare you for this. Not only that but, as bone density decreases during pregnancy, resistance training is a really efficient way of maintaining it. So, make sure you fit in a mix of cardio and strength training to get a well-rounded workout.
How hard should I be working out?
Don’t try and work on getting your heart rate up as you probably would have prior to being pregnant; this should not be your main concern. As Fletcher says, “The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines advise [that] you should be able to hold a conversation during any form of pregnancy exercise.”
But, if you are feeling out of breath faster than usual, don’t worry; this is completely normal! “During pregnancy, your blood volume increases, so your heart has to work a bit harder to distribute oxygen to you and your baby,” she explains. “[This] increases breathlessness.”
What foods should I eat?
You definitely should not be restricting your calories as a way to lose weight while pregnant. In fact, Fletcher explains that for the average woman, “Being pregnant means you need approximately 300 extra calories a day … pregnant women also need at least 15 percent more protein daily.” Cunningham agrees, “You will have to increase your intake somewhat as you progress through the pregnancy, due to feeding more than yourself.”
Your focus should be on nutrients and eating a balanced diet. “Remember [that] your baby is getting everything you ingest, for the most part,” Cunningham explains. “So, make smart choices.” Steer clear of processed foods, and lean towards nutrient-dense whole foods, like fruits and vegetables. “Healthy fats, like avocados, olive oil, lean proteins, [and] complex carbs, like sweet potatoes and oats, are all great options.”
Try eating before and after exercise, within a 30-minute window, as well. According to Fletcher, this will help stabilize your blood sugar levels while preventing nausea. So, don’t skip out on meals!
Fletcher reminds, “Above all, listen to [and trust] your body. Stay within a zone that is safe for you and your baby. Your motherly instincts start now, so believe in them.”
It is paramount that you consult your doctor before pursuing a weight-loss journey or any activity while pregnant. If you are at a healthy weight prior to pregnancy, then you shouldn’t try to lose weight while pregnant. However, it is still important to exercise and eat nourishing foods.