We all expect to gain some weight during pregnancy – after all, there’s a small human growing in there, and our bodies need to provide a safe and cozy home.
So, what happens when, instead of piling on the pounds, you find yourself losing weight while pregnant? Let’s find out.
Important note: This is just a guide. If you’re at all concerned about weight loss in pregnancy, go directly to your healthcare provider and get their professional (and personalized) advice.
The importance of weight gain in pregnancy
Gaining weight during pregnancy is totally normal and necessary for the task of growing a whole new person(!). Some of the extra weight is, of course, accounted for by your developing baby and placenta. But the majority of those pounds go into the fat stores that your body is building up to support you through the process of pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding.
The rate of weight gain is different depending on how far through your pregnancy you are. In the first three months, you may only put on around 1 to 4 pounds in total (your baby is the size of a walnut at this point!). From four months until delivery, you’re probably looking at around 2 to 4 pounds of weight gain each month.
To achieve that, you don’t actually need to follow the old saying to “eat for two”! In fact, you only really need an extra 300 calories per day – the equivalent of eating an apple with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, or 1 cup of 2% cottage cheese with half a cup of mashed banana. (Just a couple of tasty snack ideas there for you.)
Why do pregnant women lose weight?
So, if weight gain is essential for growing a baby, why do some women actually lose weight while pregnant? And is it ok to lose weight while pregnant? Well, hopefully we can explain…
Losing weight in the first trimester
It’s common to experience some weight loss in pregnancy during the first trimester, when morning sickness strikes. Around 70 to 80% of pregnant women experience nausea or vomiting at this early stage. And when all you’ve been able to stomach for days is a couple of crackers or some dry toast, it’s no wonder that a little weight loss is the result.
The good news is that morning sickness often (though not always) clears up in the second trimester, giving you plenty of time to compensate for the lost pounds. Remember that, typically, there’s only very minimal weight gain needed in the first trimester anyway.
What can present a problem is a more severe form of morning sickness experienced by some women, called HG (hyperemesis gravidarum). This is where very frequent vomiting leads to more substantial weight loss. However, it is treatable with medication and extra fluids, and it usually retreats around week 14 to 20.
Is it safe to lose weight while pregnant?
If you find yourself suddenly losing weight while pregnant and you’re not sure why, this is something to mention to your healthcare provider.
A number of medical conditions can lead to weight loss in pregnancy, including infections, hormonal imbalance, undiagnosed diabetes, and an overactive thyroid.
Risks of losing weight during pregnancy
You might rightly ask “ok, so when should I worry about weight loss during pregnancy?”
As we saw above, losing a bit of weight in the first trimester isn’t usually an issue, but continuing to lose weight during the rest of your pregnancy can potentially cause problems for your baby. After all, they need those extra calories to grow and develop!
Losing weight during pregnancy has been linked to a lower birth weight for babies and preterm birth. This could then lead to other health problems during baby’s life as they didn’t get enough energy or nutrients for their full development in the uterus. So, if you’re concerned about losing weight during pregnancy, be sure to check in with your healthcare provider.
3 quick tips for healthy living in pregnancy
From personal experience, we know it’s easier said than done to stay on the healthy stuff – but here are a few pointers for getting the nutrients you need during pregnancy:
- 1. Eating well: Fill up on plenty of veggies, wholegrains, and protein (lean meats, lentils, nuts, and seeds). Sugary snacks in moderation – though fruit offers a great energy boost. Ask your HP which vitamin and mineral supplements you could be taking, too.
- 2. Staying hydrated: Replace caffeinated beverages (tea, coffee, cola) with water, herbal tea, or unsweetened fruit juice (in moderation). Drinking enough water during pregnancy will help your growing baby get the nutrients they need, and is great for preventing constipation.
- 3. Keeping active: Gentle exercise during pregnancy is safe for you and your baby, and may help relieve your bump-related aches and pains. You could try a walk in the park, a light swim at your local pool, or even a prenatal yoga class.
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