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Congratulations on your pregnancy! It is a blessing to be expecting and supporting a brand new life, whether it’s your first or your fourth.
Pregnancy naturally results in weight gain as your body adjusts to sustain the child growing inside of you.
However, if you are overweight, you may wonder how much weight you should lose, or IF you should plan to gain any lose at all.
There are many different opinions directed at pregnant women. And a plus-sized pregnancy only compounds the confusion, especially when it comes to weight gain.
As a mom of five children and a Certified Prenatal Trainer, I would never tell a pregnant woman to focus on weight loss.
I believe our bodies are smart. If our body was ready to get pregnant, we must do our part to give them‒our body and our unborn child‒what it needs to achieve a healthy, full-term pregnancy.
However, entering pregnancy in an overweight condition does bring with it increased risks.
Your job is to be aware of these risks and know what the best things to do are in order to have the healthiest pregnancy possible. Every day, overweight women give birth to healthy children.
Let’s look at how you can plan to do the same!
Why dieting is dangerous during pregnancy.
It is never safe to restrict calories during pregnancy. In fact, calorie restriction is another risk factor for obesity later on in your child’s life.
Studies have shown that dieting in pregnancy changes your unborn child at the cellular level. If you want to give your baby a chance at a healthy life, be aware that their health begins when they are growing in your belly. Don’t cut your calories.
Under a doctor’s or registered dietitian’s supervision, eat a healthy diet full of whole foods and fibre.
Here a few more tips:
- reduce the amount of processed foods you eat
- focus on eating lots of veggies and lean protein
- reduce sugar and liquid calories
- distribute calories and eat balanced meals throughout the day
- don’t skip meals
- eat a good breakfast with protein
- take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid
Your doctor will likely suggest weight-loss guidelines – take it with a grain of salt. If your doctor suggests weight loss in a plus-sized pregnancy, I would advise you to find a new doctor who will work with you to make your pregnancy healthy and happy.
Intelligent exercise for a healthy pregnancy.
Before you begin any kind of exercise during pregnancy, it is always important to check with your doctor or midwife.
Know your body. If you have any medical conditions that are not under control, exercise may increase the chance of worsening your own or your unborn child’s health. Know what you can and can’t do.
If your primary care provider gives you the green light, find an experienced Prenatal Fitness Trainer. You can safely begin a light to moderate exercise program that can include walking or swimming.
You can also add a light resistance training program at the beginning of your second trimester. Find out what exercises you can do to reduce your pregnancy discomforts and prepare your body for birth.
It is dangerous to exercise at a high intensity during pregnancy. An elevated heart rate or gasping for breath puts your fetus at risk. A lack of oxygen and blood is dangerous for your unborn child and can result in a miscarriage or preterm birth.
When you exercise, monitor your exertion throughout your session. The simplest way to do this is by using the talk test. If you can talk in full sentences, you are probably working safely within your limits.These are the warning signs to stop exercising immediately and call your doctor:
- an abnormal shortness of breath
- chest pains
- painful uterine contractions
- vaginal bleeding
- any gush of fluid from the vagina
- dizziness, or feeling faint
Improve your chances of having a healthy pregnancy.
As I’ve already said, you can be overweight and have a healthy pregnancy.
Know your risks. Make a healthy pregnancy plan with your doctor that includes moderate exercise, a sensible diet of mostly whole foods, and perform specific exercises to ease pregnancy discomforts and prepare your body for labor.
You should also consider taking childbirth classes and hiring a birth coach, both of which will give you valuable information and help.
Above all, have confidence in your body. Enjoy your pregnancy and take this opportunity to establish lifelong healthy habits that will benefit you and your unborn child, from pregnancy until forever.
Risks in plus-sized pregnancy.
The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that an overweight, pregnant woman has nearly the same risks as someone who has uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, a regular smoker or drinker.
Before you panic, it is important again to note that overweight women give birth to healthy babies every day.
If you are already pregnant, the best thing you can do is talk with your doctor or midwife to assess your risks and make a plan for the healthiest pregnancy you can.
A lot of women begin to take better care of themselves during pregnancy, no matter what their initial weight is. We have another human being growing in us and they are dependent on our body.
Pregnancy is a great time to make permanent lifestyle changes that lead to a healthier life for you and your child.
Risk to your unborn baby.
Excess maternal weight in pregnancy can result in these risks to the unborn child:
- increases the risk of miscarriage
- having a larger than average baby which increases the child’s risk of being overweight later on
- increases your baby’s risk for developing chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes later on in life
- doubles the risk for birth defects such as Neural Tube Defects
- a medically induced preterm birth caused by complications associated with obesity can result in a higher chance of short term or long term health issues.
Risks to the mother.
An overweight pregnant woman also has her own increased health risks. Here are the major risks:
- increased risk of developing gestational diabetes. Sugar levels that are high or uncontrolled increase your chance of having a large baby. Big babies make vaginal delivery more difficult which may require a surgical birth (cesarean section). Large amounts of sugar in your blood prevent your body’s cells from getting the fuel they need, which can lead to malnutrition.
- increased risk of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is high blood pressure that occurs only during pregnancy. High blood pressure results in a reduction of blood flow throughout the body, including the placenta and unborn baby. This can result in poor growth and less amniotic fluid. It increases the chance of placental abruption which can be deadly. In severe cases, eclampsia can result in seizures.
- increased risk of sleep apnea which leads to fatigue and increases the risk of high blood pressure, preeclampsia, eclampsia, and heart and lung disorders.
- increased risk of infection – both Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) during pregnancy and postpartum infections whether the baby is born vaginally or via c-section.
- increased risk of problems during labor and delivery. Overweight pregnancies often result in longer labours.
- excess body fat makes it difficult to monitor the unborn child which can result in unnecessary cesarean sections.
It is important to speak with your doctor about your personal risks and then do what you can to have a healthy pregnancy and labor.
Does a plus-sized pregnancy look different than other pregnancies?
If you enter pregnancy as an overweight woman, your doctor will assess your risks. If he or she feels that your risks are significant, you will likely have more frequent prenatal visits to monitor you and your baby’s health.
Be prepared that you may have frequent testing for gestational diabetes and other conditions for both you and your unborn baby.