By: Sue Cotey and Andrea Harris, RNs
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Gaining weight during your pregnancy is perfectly normal. But it’s important to avoid gaining too much because this can dramatically increase your risk of gestational diabetes. It also may pose several risks for your baby.
What are the risks?
Mothers with gestational diabetes have a greater risk of having bigger babies, babies with breathing problems and children who later in life are overweight and/or develop diabetes.
Also, research shows that about half of moms who have gestational diabetes end up developing type 2 diabetes in the next 10 years.
How much weight gain is too much?
Pregnancy weight gain is different for everyone. A good rule of thumb, though, is to limit your weight gain to between 25 and 35 pounds.
If you are thinner before pregnancy, you may need to gain 28 to 40 pounds. If you are overweight, you probably only need to gain between 15 and 25 pounds.
Pay attention to how quickly you gain weight, also. High rates of weight gain, especially early in pregnancy, can also increase the risk for gestational diabetes.
You also want to do everything you can to stabilize your weight between pregnancies. A study published by Norwegian researchers tracked women between their first and second pregnancies. The women who gained weight (instead of losing or remaining stable) were found to be more likely to get gestational diabetes during their second pregnancy.
In fact, a gain of one or two body mass index (BMI) points doubled the risk, and gaining four or more points increased the risk fivefold.
How can you reduce these risks?
It’s OK to lose weight if you are coming into a pregnancy above a healthy weight. Researchers have found that overweight moms who lose weight before their second pregnancy can decrease their risk of gestational diabetes.
Are you planning ahead for a pregnancy? Aim for a BMI of less than 25. If you’re not quite there, aim for lower than 30; anything higher increases your risk for gestational diabetes.
Tips for a healthy pregnancy
Keep those workouts going. One way to improve your health and reduce the risk of diabetes is to incorporate regular physical activity into your life. This can help you lose weight and reduce insulin resistance. It’s especially important if you had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy.
Watch your diet. You’re not technically “eating for two.” You don’t need to increase caloric intake until your second trimester. And, even then, you only need about 300 extra calories per day. This can equate to 1.) 2 cups of lowfat milk 2.) an apple and two tablespoons of peanut butter or 3.) whole wheat pita and a one-quarter cup of hummus. After your baby is born you’ll need about 500 extra calories if you are breastfeeding.
Don’t rush to get back to your pre-preggo weight. It’s hard to be patient, but be gentle with yourself about your weight loss goals after pregnancy. Your body goes through many changes during pregnancy that take time to reverse. It may take up to a year. You can begin exercising at six weeks postpartum with a goal of losing one or two pounds each week.
If you have concerns about your weight before, during or after pregnancy, talk to your doctor. Together, you can come up with a healthy diet and exercise plan.