How to Lose Weight While Pregnant Safely (7 Tips)

How to Lose Weight While Pregnant Safely
Peifen Chou RD

Medical reviewed by Peifen Chou, RD

Obstetrics and gynecology, lactation instructor, integrative medicine, aromatherapist, holistic nutritional consulting, functional medicine, and pet nutrition.

Many expecting mothers want to know if they can lose weight while pregnant. The answer is as long as you are eating healthy, working out, and having professional guidance, you can do it moderately.

But losing weight rapidly is not at all recommended. Your body is going through many changes to support the development of the fetus. Therefore, you must consult your doctor.

So, if you are still wondering how to lose weight while pregnant, keep reading, as here’s everything you must know about weight reduction.

Can you lose weight while pregnant?

Losing weight in pregnancy is only acceptable if you have a nutritious diet and moderate exercise. Also, if you have discussed your pregnancy case with the healthcare provider.

You must know that every pregnancy is unique, and certain factors are important (1). For example, age, weight, genetics, health issues, implantation of the fetus, etc., so it’s not advisable in most cases.

However, you can take some vigilant steps to lose excess weight. But, generally, it’s not recommended because the baby’s development from a single cell to a mature, healthy baby demands good support from the mother’s body. Also, you can only try it when you eat healthy and have a healthy weight (2, 3).

To summarize, a healthy diet and working out a little is good for a healthy pregnancy. Once the gestation period is over, you can gradually target weight reduction.

How to lose weight while pregnant fast?

Many women search for how to lose weight rapidly during pregnancy. But, this is not the right approach to a healthy pregnancy (4).

You should not pressurize your body and mind to lose weight during pregnancy. On the contrary, gradual weight gain is an important symptom of a healthy baby.

If you plan to limit gestational weight gain, this can negatively affect the baby’s health. For example, the baby can be underweight, and there can be pre-delivery or other problems (5). 

A healthy weight gain is important to support mothers’ and baby’s health. If you are an obese woman, you can discuss your unique case with the healthcare team (6). Then, you can have nutritious dense food and work out little to maintain a healthy weight. Also, you can target weight loss after the pregnancy.

The fact is you are going to gain weight during pregnancy (7). But, when you gain weight at a steady and recommended pace,  it will be easier to lose it post-pregnancy.

It’s important to track your weight, notice fluctuations, and discuss diet and exercise to follow up with the healthcare team. They will suggest the best strategy for healthy weight gain.

Adopting a healthy and balanced diet along with exercise during pregnancy. It is always the golden rule for a better postpartum body. It is also much more comfortable than trying to lose weight during pregnancy. 

So, rely on expert opinion, as every pregnancy is unique and has special demands for the baby’s overall growth.

Risks of losing weight while pregnant

There are many risks associated with losing weight while pregnant. If you deliberately or unknowingly try to lose weight, you must discuss it with the doctor. Some of the common risks associated with too much weight loss are:

The slow growth of a developing fetus

Several studies have shown that losing weight while pregnant can cause adverse effects on the growth of gestational-age babies (8). Losing weight while pregnant can inhibit the baby’s proper development. It can lead to neonatal morbidity and mortality (9). Therefore, it’s important to maintain a normal weight.

Risk of premature birth

Giving birth before the completion of the gestation period is premature birth (10). For example, if you have a low weight or are trying to reduce weight, you can be at high risk of premature birth (11). In this case, the baby’s lungs are sensitive and may have to stay in the NICU for days (12). 

Perinatal Mortality

So, in any case, fulfilling your nutritional requirements and staying active are required.

What if you’re experiencing weight loss in the first trimester?

Early pregnancy is a little challenging and can welcome lots of symptoms. Also, these signs vary from woman to woman. The fluctuating hormones, implantation, and the body’s process to embrace motherhood can also lead to weight reduction (13).

Some of the reasons for experiencing weight loss in the first trimester are:

Morning sickness: The symptoms of nausea, vomiting, etc., can cause loss of appetite. You may hate some smells or hate eating. All of this leads to gradual weight loss (14).

Lifestyle change: Many women start to work out a bit and try eating healthily. As a result, you may notice a decrease in weight in the first trimester.

If you notice a weight decline, don’t worry! Usually, a normal morning sickness won’t harm the baby. But if it’s severe, you should consult the doctor (15).

Note: If there is too much weight loss, like more than 3 pounds, especially in late pregnancy, it is advisable to consult the doctor.

When your doctor might recommend losing weight during pregnancy?

As mentioned, every pregnancy is unique; therefore, there can be some things doctors may ask for a healthy pregnancy.

But, if you have certain health risks or are obese, a doctor may suggest a gradual strategy to maintain weight. Moreover, it helps avoid complications and promotes the baby’s normal development (16). It may include healthy and nutritious calories and light workouts.

Complications of being overweight or obese during pregnancy

Here are some complications of being overweight or obese during pregnancy:

Preeclampsia: It has become a very common complication where women notice high blood pressure after the 20th week of pregnancy. High blood pressure is not good for a baby’s health and may lead to maternal seizures called eclampsia (17).

Gestational diabetes:  During pregnancy, the mother’s insulin sensitivity decreases, requiring the body to produce more insulin to maintain normal glucose levels. If insufficient insulin is produced, gestational diabetes may result, causing high blood sugar in the mother. This can lead to fetal macrosomia, pregnancy complications, and, later on, develop diabetes type 2 (18).

Moreover, overweight women have a high risk of obstructive sleep apnea and other complications (19). Your doctor may recommend cutting calories and choosing nutrient-dense food to avoid all this. Also, a 30 to 60-minute workout can help you control these situations, and ask the doctor how much weight loss is ideal.

Weight gain recommendations for overweight or obese pregnant women

Underweight or overweight, you will gain weight during pregnancy. But the range must be ideal for your unique body mass index (20). In addition, you should have an adequate diet, weight, and exercise to carry a healthy pregnancy (37). 

However, if you are obese and gaining too much weight, you may welcome complications, but they can be managed with healthy practices (21).

In addition, ACOG considers you overweight if your pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) is between 25 and 29.9. Many studies and BMI studies underline the ideal weight gain in pregnancy (22).

How to lose weight safely while pregnant?

Following a restrictive diet, cutting calories, and intense exercise are bad approaches to losing weight during pregnancy. 

So, after thoroughly conversing about your time and health with the doctor, you can opt for a set strategy to maintain a healthy weight. These ways don’t disrupt the development of a baby or cause any adverse effect on the mother.

Some of these ways are:

Work with a qualified healthcare provider

To safely lose weight during pregnancy, it is important to work with a qualified healthcare provider. Unfortunately, It’s easy to fall into the trap of reducing calorie intake without considering proper nutrition (23). Also, while exercising is beneficial, it is important to assess your body’s condition during pregnancy and choose appropriate workouts (24).

Therefore, stay in touch with your doctor. The concerned person will check the baby’s and your health and then provide a gradual strategy.

Moreover, this diet plan should fulfill all your nutrient requirements. Also, they may suggest daily prenatal vitamins, etc. So consult your doctor before adopting any weight loss strategy.

Know how much weight you should gain

There is a recommended weight gain strategy during pregnancy, and you can consult your doctor for the right advice. 

Monitoring calorie intake and cutting down gradually

You can monitor your calories for gradually losing weight (25). Consuming fewer calories than you burn can lead to weight loss. 

The way to either reduce your calorie intake or burn off the excess calories through exercise would be good. If you were at a thinner weight before pregnancy, you may need additional calories during pregnancy (26):

  • First trimester: No extra calories
  • Second trimester: An additional 340 calories per day
  • Third trimester: Add around 450 calories per day to your usual intake when not pregnant

You can gradually decrease the extra calories and let your body burn excess fat for energy. But your calorie intake must have all the nutrients.

For weight loss, you can try healthy practices like:

  • Eat smaller portions (27).
  • Use natural spices and cut-out condiments (28).
  • Welcome vegetables instead of more carbs (29),(30).
  • Say no to all types of ultra-processed food (31).
  • Hydrate (32).

Eat a nutrient-rich and balanced diet

Eating healthier foods during pregnancy helps you be active and fit and enhance your pregnancy journey. Your food intake should have all macro and micronutrients. 

Some of the tips to incorporate into eating healthier foods are:

  • Try healthy snacking options to satisfy cravings—for example, avocado toast, smoothies, baked chips, etc.
  • Eat whole grains.
  • Welcome lots of fresh and green vegetables.
  • You can have lean protein from plant and animal sources.
  • Choose healthy fats and complex carbs.

You can have vegetables, fruits, berries, lean meats, olive oil, nuts, whole grains, and other superfoods. Your meal plan should have a complete diet focusing on all nutrients. 

Incorporate exercise

Many women believe that exercise can harm the baby (33). However, as discussed, you must address your and your body’s health with a doctor before exercising.

Generally, light exercise for 30 minutes is not harmful (33). Some of the strategies you can opt for are:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Gardening
  • Prenatal yoga (34)

This not only helps you manage an ideal weight but also helps you deliver a healthy baby (35). But, a doctor’s consultation is mandatory before trying any exercise. 

Monitor your weight loss

Monitoring your physical and mental health is important during and post-pregnancy. It would be best if you tracked the weight loss. Generally, there can be more weight loss during the first trimester due to nausea.

But, in the second or third trimester, the weight is stable or may reduce slightly. So, if there is a sudden change, you should consult the doctor.

Embrace body changes and be kind to yourself

Pregnancy is a magical journey; no one knows you better than yourself. But, of course, pregnancy welcomes some weight in all conditions (36). Therefore, you should embrace your body.

The changes in your body are necessary for the healthy development of your baby. So, don’t be strict with yourself. Instead, have your loved ones around you and contact a reliable doctor for suggestions.

Summary

Pregnancy, weight management, and the health of the baby and mother are unique for everyone. So it would be best if you stayed in touch with your doctor. Remember to eat healthily, be happy, stay active, and enjoy the most special phase of your life.

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Peifen Chou RD

Medical reviewed by Peifen Chou, RD

Obstetrics and gynecology, lactation instructor, integrative medicine, aromatherapist, holistic nutritional consulting, functional medicine, and pet nutrition.

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