Proper nutrition during pregnancy
with advice from Ann Cowlin, MA, CSM, CCE
When pondering the parameters of pregnancy, there are many things that expectant mothers will research in order to be as healthy as possible. It can be confusing to consider how much weight one should gain while pregnant, as the recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council of the National Academies give different ranges based on the pre-pregnancy weight of the mother.
Ann Cowlin, the creator of Dancing thru Pregnancy, one of Physiquality’s partner programs, points women to the paper they published in 2009 for their recommendations: An underweight woman (with a BMI of less than 18.5) should gain 28 to 40 pounds. A woman of average weight (a BMI between 18.5 and 25) should gain 25 to 35 pounds. Women considered overweight (BMI of 25 to 30) or obese (BMI is more than 30) should gain less weight, 15 to 25 pounds, or even less if obese (11 pounds).
Most of us don’t usually know our BMI, so if you want to calculate it, use the one posted by the National Institutes of Health. And keep in mind that a) BMI doesn’t take into account your fitness level, only your weight and height, and b) it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor about the proper weight gain for your body.
When considering your weight gain during pregnancy, there are a few things to note:
- It’s rare to gain a great deal of weight during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, or the first trimester. This is often due to nausea or vomiting, as well as a lack of appetite.
- In the second and third trimesters, the average woman gains about a pound a week, especially after week 20.
- Your doctor may use ultrasound, along with your weight gain, to assess the baby’s health as your pregnancy develops. (Be prepared for stepping onto the scale a great deal over these nine months.)
Ann explains that pregnant women need to eat a balanced diet that includes proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. She adds that women don’t necessarily need to add extra calories during the first trimester, but by the second trimester, they should be eating roughly an additional 300 calories a day, and an additional 500 by the third trimester.
There are several ways to add in these additional calories. One easy way is to increase the protein servings at all meals while adding fruit as an extra snack when hungry. The goal is to keep a healthy ratio of fruit, vegetables and protein, just in slightly larger amounts.
If you’re having problems with nausea in the morning, it can help to eat protein, then fruit, one serving at a time, until lunch. Then you can eat a more balanced meal of protein, vegetables and starch, followed by fruit or healthy fats (i.e., avocado, olives, etc.) as an afternoon snack.
Don’t forget that another way to keep your weight gain at a healthy level is to continue exercising while pregnant. It keeps moms more fit as they prepare their bodies for labor, helps to keep weight gain at a manageable level, and gives babies healthier hearts and improved breathing movements in utero. Exercise also helps women feel better overall, which means they do better and feel healthier and happier during pregnancy. Your physical therapist is a great resource to discuss how to continue your exercise regimen while expecting.
If you are planning on or have become pregnant, you should talk with your obstetrician about realistic weight gain expectations and fitness regimens. Just remember that a healthy mama is more likely to have a healthy baby.
For further reading, look through our selection of articles on women’s health, in addition to the below links:
Gain weight safely during your pregnancy. WebMD, May 12, 2016.
New York Times.
Dancing Thru Pregnancy.
Weintraub, Karen. Healthy mom, healthy baby. Boston Globe, April 13, 2014.
Calculate your body mass index (BMI). National Institutes of Health.
Rasmussen, Kathleen M. and Ann L. Yaktine, eds.; Committee to Re-examine IOM Pregnancy Weight Guidelines; Food and Nutrition Board; Board on Children, Youth and Families; Institute of Medicine; Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; National Research Council. Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Re-examining the Guidelines. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press; 2009.
Exercise-exposed fetuses have improved breathing movements in utero, a marker for healthy development. The American Physiological Society, September 19, 2009.