Every woman wants to have a
healthy pregnancy, but being obese
puts moms and their babies at an
increased risk for a host of
complications including gestational
diabetes, preeclampsia and
miscarriage, not to mention that it
can make labor and delivery difficult
and affect their babies throughout
According to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC), 45
percent of women start their
pregnancies overweight or obese.
What’s more, a study in the journal
Obstetrics & Gynecology found that
more than 47 percent of women gain
too much weight during pregnancy.
Although it’s ideal to have a healthy
weight before you get pregnant,
experts say that even if you’re
overweight when you conceive, with
some simple strategies you can still
have a healthy pregnancy and a
1. Talk to your doctor.
Vitamin D and folate are two
nutrients that are important for a
healthy pregnancy. But being obese
can increase the risk of having a
vitamin D deficiency, and some
research shows that women may also
need more folate during pregnancy,
said Torey Armul, a registered
dietitian nutritionist in Columbus,
Ohio and national spokesperson for
the Academy of Nutrition and
Although the current Recommended
Dietary Allowance (RDA) in the
United States does not call for an
increase, it’s a good idea to have
your physician test your levels and
prescribe a supplement if she thinks
2. Don’t diet.
The American College of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists
(ACOG) recommends women who are
overweight (BMI between 25 and
29.9) should gain between 15 and 25
pounds and those who are obese
(BMI of 30 or more) gain between 11
and 20 pounds.
Nevertheless, now is not the time to
start dieting, said Dr. Nicole Avena, a
research neuroscientist, an assistant
professor at Mount Sinai School of
Medicine in New York City and
author of “What to Eat When You’re
Pregnant.” So instead of obsessing
over the number on the scale, focus
on what you can do now to have a
3. See a nutritionist.
Although your doctor may provide
general recommendations for diet
and exercise, working with a
registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN)
who specializes in prenatal nutrition
can give you specific
recommendations that work for you
to help control your weight, support
your pregnancy and maintain a
healthy weight after giving birth.
4. Eat extra calories.
During the first trimester your baby
doesn’t need any extra calories to
grow. During the second and third
trimesters, however, you should add
between 250 and 450 calories extra
calories a day if you’re overweight
and between 200 and 370 calories if
One caveat: If you gained weight
during your first trimester, your
extra calories should be reduced.
5. Make healthy choices.
Although you’ll want to make sure
you’re getting those extra calories,
they should come from healthy foods
— plenty of vegetables and fruit, lean
protein, healthy fats and whole
grains. These foods can also help
control your appetite, keep cravings
in check and make it less likely you’ll
reach for junk food.
6. Try tracking.
Although you don’t want to
scrutinize every calorie you eat,
using an app or a journal to track
your meals can help you stay mindful
of how much you’re eating. But listen
to your body. Hormonal fluctuations,
cravings and fatigue can affect your
appetite too, so never let yourself get
too hungry or try to restrict yourself.
7. Have treats.
Just because you’re overweight
doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an
occasional dessert. But make sure not
to go overboard.
“I always tell my clients don’t let
pregnancy become an excuse to eat
junk food because it’s an excuse you
can have for 10 months out of the
year and that can lead to a lot of
weight gain,” Armul said.
8. Drink up.
There’s no need to eat for two but
you certainly should be drinking for
two. Although water is preferable,
diet soda, flavored water or seltzer
are ok too, Armul said. Just keep tabs
on the caffeine, which can add up
9. Move more.
Although you might be exhausted or
nauseous, exercise can help keep
weight gain at bay, make labor and
delivery easier and prevent
“Pregnancy is certainly not the time
to get in shape and make huge health
gains but activity is crucial,” Armul
When deciding on an exercise plan,
take into account what your activity
level was before pregnancy especially
“because we know that people who
are overweight can be fit,” she
Yet if you haven’t exercised in
months or longer, get cleared by your
physician first. And always start
small with a 5- or 10-minute walk or
a prenatal yoga class, for example,
and build up as you feel ready.
10. Have a plan after pregnancy.
After your baby is born, you’ll not
only be exhausted but you’ll have less
time to plan meals, find recipes and
cook. So use this time to stock your
freezer with healthy meals, sign up
for a regular grocery or meal
delivery service or ask guests to
bring healthy meals. Also plan for
how you’ll fit in exercise, whether it’s
taking your baby for walks
throughout the day, a gym
membership or signing up for a
postpartum fitness program.
Although it will be challenging to
stick with your healthy lifestyle, you
deserve to be healthy for yourself
and your baby.
Julie Revelant is a health journalist
and a consultant who provides
content marketing and copy writing
services for the healthcare industry.
She's also a mom of two. Don't forget
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