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 their lives.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 45 percent of women start their pregnancies overweight or obese. Whats more, a study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found that more than 47 percent of women gain too much weight during pregnancy.
Although its ideal to have a healthy weight before you get pregnant, experts say that even if youre overweight when you conceive, with some simple strategies you can still have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
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 Dietetics.
Although the current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) in the United States does not call for an increase, its a good idea to have your physician test your levels and prescribe a supplement if she thinks its necessary.
2. Dont 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 Youre Pregnant. So instead of obsessing over the number on the scale, focus on what you can do now to have a healthy pregnancy.
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 doesnt 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 youre overweight and between 200 and 370 calories if youre obese.
One caveat: If you gained weight during your first trimester, your extra calories should be reduced.
5. Make healthy choices.
Although youll want to make sure youre 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 youll reach for junk food.
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