Let’s start by pointing out that losing weight during pregnancy should only take place under the advisement and close supervision of your OB/GYN. It is normal to lose some weight during the first trimester of pregnancy due to morning sickness and hormonal changes. Reducing food intake is not healthy for the developing baby. Having said that, eating a healthy diet and exercising are encouraged during pregnancy. Rather than trying to lose weight, a pregnant woman should concentrate instead on eating healthy to avoid any unnecessary weight gain.
Focus should be on eating nutrient rich foods and drinking plenty of water. The pregnant woman should over-loading on processed carbs, which have very little nutritional value and high calorie levels. She should Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables she consumes. She should work to eliminate soft drinks, replacing them with water or 100% natural juices. And, of course, she should be sure to take her prenatal vitamins. She should try to eliminate processed food from her diet. Processed foods typically contain little nutritional value, are high in calories, and tend to be loaded with sodium. The sodium can trigger high blood pressure and other complications. Pregnant women should try to eat food in its natural form whenever possible.
The expectant mother should consider eating five to six small meals throughout the day rather than three larger meals. Eating this way keeps her from being incredibly hungry between meals, which may result in binge-snacking on unhealthy foods. She could plan a small breakfast, a mid-morning snack (fruit, or nuts or the like), a small lunch, a mid-afternoon snack (perhaps a pro-biotic yogurt?) a small dinner and perhaps a before bed snack. Eating small meals throughout the day also keeps insulin levels in balance, which may help decrease mood swings. A bonus, particularly for pregnant women, is that smaller amounts of foods are more easily digested. This can be especially beneficial as the baby grows and puts more pressure on the digestive organs.
Folic acid is important to pregnant women. It helps to prevent defects of the baby’s brain and spinal cord. It can be found in foods like oranges, strawberries, spinach, beans, and broccoli. Be sure to include these in your diet.
Expectant mothers should engage in low impact exercises to prevent falls and injury to herself or her baby. Exercises such as walking, biking, swimming and dancing fall into the category of low impact exercises. In addition, there are several exercise videos that are specifically tailored toward pregnant women. Exercise helps to reduce pregnancy aches, improves sleep, elevates mood levels, and lowers the risks of complications, such as gestational diabetes. There are studies that have shown that when a pregnant woman exercises regularly, the baby’s brain development is improved. Exercising consistently throughout pregnancy also has a positive effect on the labor and delivery process.
Pregnant women need to use caution to avoid over exerting themselves. They should not exercise in extremely hot or humid environments. Exercise is not advisable without OB/GYN approval if she has been diagnosed with a low placenta or a weak cervix. She should also avoid exercise if she has bleeding or spotting. If she has a history of miscarriages or premature births, she should be sure to consult your OB/GYN before engaging in physical activity.
Certain exercises should be avoided altogether during pregnancy. Contact sports, or any sport that presents a fall risk should be avoided. Weight lifting, which puts undo pressure on the abdomen should not be performed. Sit-ups should also be avoided for this reason. Activities that require a quick change in motion, such as basketball, should be avoided. Pregnant women should also avoid activities such as jumping, skipping and running as these activities present too high of a risk to the pregnancy.
Pregnant women should drink plenty of water during physical activity. While it is recommended for everyone who engages in physical activity to drink water to avoid dehydration, pregnancy is a time when extra attention needs to be paid to this. Dehydration can cause several complications, including premature labor.
If pregnant women exercise throughout their pregnancy, and eat nutrient rich foods without all the extra, empty calories, it will be easier to shed the weight after the pregnancy. If the new mother is nursing her baby, she will not be able to follow a reduced calorie diet until she finishes breast feeding. However, she should maintain eating those nutrient rich foods that she started eating during pregnancy. These will help to prevent extra pounds from creeping up. Some studies have shown that nursing mothers lose weight more at a faster rate, initially, than mothers who choose not to, or are unable to nurse their babies.
If the new mother is not nursing her baby, she may begin to follow a reduced calorie diet. Remember calories in minus calories out is the difference between weight loss or weight gain. If the body brings in more calories than it burns, the result is a gain of weight. If the body burns more calories than it spends, the result is weight loss.
Physical activities may be increased, once approval has been given from the OB/GYN. This approval is usually granted at around the six-week check-up. Once the approval has been given, new moms should ease into a regular routine that consists of both cardiovascular (aerobic) and strength training exercises. She should start workouts only one or two days each week, slowly increasing as she builds stamina back. She can walk on the days she doesn’t do other workout activities. This may help the new mom reach her goals faster.
While pregnancy is not the time to focus on losing weight, unless it is recommended by a doctor, it is a time to focus on overall health. Expectant mothers need to be mindful of the nutritional value of the foods they eat, and the types and amounts of exercise they get. This is important to the health of the growing baby. It is also helps during the labor and delivery process. Being intentional about food and exercise throughout the pregnancy will help the mother to achieve her weight loss goals more efficiently once the baby is born and she has received approval to exercise from her doctor.