women

Weighing the Risks (part 2) - Gaining Too Much Weight, Gaining Too Little Weight

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3. Gaining Too Much Weight

It can be easy for some women to pack on the pounds during pregnancy. Even though you do need to gain some additional weight, gaining too much weight can have a negative impact. If you gain excess weight during pregnancy (usually more than 40 pounds), you increase your risk for gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Both of these conditions can put you and your baby at risk for complications.

Too much weight can also make pregnancy much more uncomfortable, causing backache, leg pain, varicose veins, and fatigue. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can also lead to a heavier baby, which can cause complications during labor and delivery. Some experts find that extremely overweight women tend to have longer labors and are at higher risk for cesarean sections. Additionally, according to the Journal of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, women who tend to gain more weight than what is recommended during pregnancy and who do not lose the excess weight within six months of giving birth are at a much higher risk of being obese eight to ten years down the road.

What to Do

It is wise to keep regular doctor’s appointments so your health-care provider can monitor your weight on a regular basis. If you are gaining weight too rapidly, you may need to adjust your eating plan. Check to make sure you are not overeating or eating the wrong types of foods. Be clear on how many extra calories you should actually be eating, what portion sizes should look like, and the number of servings you should be consuming from each food group. Remember that you are not eating for two full-size adults. You only need to consume about 300 calories more than your maintenance calorie needs each day.

Do not take it upon yourself to diet or cut calories drastically to keep from gaining too much weight during pregnancy or to lose any weight you have gained. This can have detrimental health effects for both you and your baby. You need proper nutrition throughout your nine months for a healthy pregnancy.

Most importantly, do not obsess about weight gain. Keep in mind that you will gain and that you need to gain, but also remember this must happen in moderation. All women are different, so your rate of gain may differ from others. Stick to a healthy and well-balanced diet that includes all of the food groups in the correct servings and portion sizes; watch your fat intake; cut back on the junk foods; and get enough protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. Drink plenty of water, and exercise regularly. Do all this, and you are doing what you can to moderate your weight gain and stay healthy. If you are concerned about your diet, contact a dietitian who can help you properly analyze your food intake and put you on the healthiest path.

If you feel you are gaining too much weight, keep in mind that the gain may be due to water retention. Women who retain large amounts of water may experience swelling, or edema, in their lower legs and/or hands. In this case, you cannot really count on the scale to indicate whether you are eating enough or too much. Make sure you are drinking the recommended amount of fluids, which can help flush out stored fluid. Some degree of edema is normal, but if you feel you are experiencing an extreme case, speak with your doctor.

4. Gaining Too Little Weight

As gaining too much weight can be a problem, gaining too little can also cause problems. Not gaining enough weight during pregnancy can increase your risk for delivering a low birth-weight baby as well as preterm labor. Not gaining enough weight can come from improper nourishment. Not eating enough and not getting proper nourishment can deprive your baby of essential nutrients he needs for proper growth and development.

Some women may also experience little to no weight gain in the first trimester as a result of morning sickness. For those experiencing severe morning sickness, weight gain in the first trimester can be tough. Some women may even lose a little weight in the beginning of their pregnancy as their dietary habits change to healthier ones. Don’t worry too much about not gaining weight in your first trimester. As long as you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and consume the number of calories your body needs, your baby will be perfectly safe. What you don’t gain in the first three months, you can easily make up for later on. It is important that you do begin to gain weight at a steady pace through your second and third trimesters. The ultimate goal is to gain the recommended amount of weight by the end of the pregnancy.

What to Do

If you are not gaining enough weight, the first thing you should do is talk to your doctor to make sure there are no underlying problems. If morning sickness is a continuing problem, speak with your doctor and a dietitian to learn helpful ways to get the calories you need. You need to assess your dietary intake. Make sure you are eating the correct number of servings from each food group, as recommended for pregnant women . Don’t skip meals or leave out food groups. Gaining weight doesn’t mean you can eat anything you want. Eating junk food or fast food to gain weight is not healthy. You need to still make sure that all of your calories count. Some women who are underweight during pregnancy have a pattern of eating low-calorie foods and not enough protein. The following guidelines can help you to eat more healthy calories:

• Don’t skip breakfast. Eat a healthy breakfast every day, and spread peanut butter on toast or add cheese to eggs to give you an extra boost of protein.

• Snack between meals on healthy foods to add calories to your day. Try snacks such as yogurt with fresh fruit, dried fruit, milkshakes, or cottage cheese.

• Add foods to your daily intake that are high in the “good” fats, such as nuts, seeds, fatty fish (in moderation), olive oil, peanut butter, and avocados. These foods can add lots of calories in just a small serving.

• Avoid junk food or fast foods that can add “bad” or unhealthy fats to your daily diet as well as too much sugar. Even though these foods add calories, most do not contribute much good nutrition.

• You may not need to eat more foods; instead, try to increase the portion sizes of the foods you already eat.

• Continue to be physically active. Exercise can help to stimulate appetite.

5. Dieting—A Dangerous Game

Pregnancy is not the time to worry about losing weight, no matter what your pre-pregnancy weight was. Nor is it the time to worry about spoiling your girlish figure. Once you become pregnant, your focus should be on gaining the recommended amount of weight and on living a healthier lifestyle for a healthy pregnancy. It is the time to eat healthy and stay fit, not skimp on calories. Your baby is constantly growing and needs constant nourishment. You can think about weight loss and reaching a healthier weight once your pregnancy is over and you have finished breastfeeding your baby.

Never take any type of diet pill or weight-loss supplement, even those claiming to be “safe and natural,” while trying to conceive or once you are pregnant. These can be harmful to the fetus.

Even when you are trying to conceive, it is advisable to stay away from extreme fad diets since you may not know you are pregnant immediately. Fad diets can be too low in the calories and essential nutrients you need from the very start of pregnancy. If you need to reach a healthier weight before pregnancy, do it by sticking to a low-fat, high-fiber, well-balanced diet and exercising regularly.

Dieting either before or during pregnancy can lead to nutritional deficiencies that can affect the proper development of your baby. Dieting by decreasing your caloric intake can lead to too-little weight gain during pregnancy, which can lead to problems such as premature labor and delivering a low birth-weight baby. Do not try to lose weight in order to keep from gaining too much during your pregnancy. Bigger women are unlikely to gain as much weight during pregnancy as smaller women might. Keep your weight gain to the advised levels, and do not try to lose weight!

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