It’s normal to lose weight during pregnancy, despite how concerning it could sound. There may be nothing to be concerned about, mainly if the weight loss is temporary and followed by the necessary amount of weight gain. Losing weight during pregnancy might cause concern if the weight loss is significant, continues for an extended time, or happens after the first trimester of pregnancy.
In these circumstances, weight loss can be troublesome and requires the care of a medical professional. Because of this precise reason, your healthcare practitioner will monitor whether or not you are gaining or losing weight at each prenatal appointment. In the following paragraphs, we will discuss the reasons for pregnancy weight loss, when it is cause for concern, and what can be done about it.
During the first few months of pregnancy, the unborn child is still quite little and has relatively few dietary and caloric requirements. Therefore, if you lose weight unintentionally during this time (which is typically caused by morning sickness) will not harm your baby’s development.
It is essential to keep in mind that the amount of weight gain that is appropriate during the first trimester of pregnancy is often only a few pounds depending on your weight before pregnancy — usually between 2 and 4 pounds.
If you experience a loss of a couple of pounds rather than a gain of several pounds, your overall loss will be only several pounds. When morning sickness passes and appetite returns, which often occurs sometime in the second trimester, you will quickly regain these pounds.
The body mass index (BMI) is an old-fashioned and unreliable method of measuring obesity that fails to consider several important aspects, including body composition, ethnicity, race, gender, and age.
Even though it is an inaccurate measurement, the body mass index (BMI) is frequently employed in today’s medical world. This is because it is a straightforward, low-cost, and speedy approach to evaluating possible health status and outcomes.
Why Is Weight Gain Important
After the first trimester of pregnancy, however, gradual weight gain becomes vital for both the health of the baby as well as the building up of essential fat stores to prepare a woman’s body for supporting a growing baby, labor, delivery, and breastfeeding. This is because, during the first trimester of pregnancy, a woman’s body is primarily focused on ensuring her health and the health of the baby.
When pregnant, it is not advisable to adhere to a diet that is overly restrictive to lose weight or to make significant reductions in the number of calories, or food groups consumed. Consuming sufficient calories and nutrients will become an increasingly important factor in your baby’s healthy development as they grow. However, if necessary, your baby can access some of the fat stores in your body and utilize those for its own needs.
Both morning sickness and the motivation it gives women to adopt healthier eating habits during pregnancy are factors that can make a woman lose weight in the early stages of her pregnancy. For pregnant women who have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater, a modest amount of weight loss under the supervision of a physician may also be indicated as an additional treatment option.
An Explanation of BMI
The body mass index (BMI) provides a general guideline to assess a person’s body fat by using their height and weight. Be aware that your body mass index (BMI) is only one factor in determining a healthy weight and that a significant number of women—more than half, fall outside of the “normal” area. Talk to your physician to find out if your current weight is at a healthy level for your body.
There is a very high incidence of morning sickness during the first trimester of pregnancy, affecting approximately 70–80 percent of pregnant women.
The massive hormonal alterations that occur during pregnancy are the root cause of morning sickness, which includes the following symptoms:
- Lessening of one’s appetite
- Heightened sensitivity to odors
As a result, many pregnant women experience nausea and vomiting, leading to a loss of part of their pre-pregnancy weight.
It is not necessary to be concerned if your morning sickness is light to moderate or occurs only occasionally as long as you continue to eat at least a little bit each day and have not lost more than a few pounds.
By week 14, most people experience improved symptoms, and many also begin to gain weight.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)
On the other hand, nausea and vomiting in the morning can occasionally progress into a more severe form of intense morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).
Women who have this illness report a worsening of their symptoms and a more significant loss of weight.
“A patient is felt to have HG if she has persistent vomiting and weight loss exceeding 5 percent of the pre-pregnancy body weight, along with evidence of ketones in their urine,” says Dr. Chris Han, a physician at the Center for Fetal Medicine and Women’s Ultrasound.
“A patient is felt to have HG if she has persistent vomiting and weight loss exceeding 5 percent of the pre-pregnancy body weight,” says Dr. Chris Han.
For instance, a woman who begins her pregnancy at 140 pounds but develops hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) will lose approximately seven or more pounds during her pregnancy.
According to research, there are around 36,000 cases of hyperemesis gravidarum that result in hospitalizations of women in the United States each year.
Since women can be treated at home or as outpatients by their health care provider, the absolute number of women who have the ailment may be significantly larger than previously thought.
The condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum is marked by extreme nausea and vomiting, which can lead to severe dehydration and an inability to keep food down. If you have this illness, there is a possibility that you will experience weight loss as a direct result.
HG symptoms typically occur between weeks 4 and 6 of pregnancy and can reach their height between 9 and 13 weeks. Most pregnant women begin to feel better between weeks 14 and 20, but other people need medical attention throughout their whole pregnancies. It is possible to treat hyperemesis outside of the hospital; however, hospitalization may be required to treat more severe instances.
Various Methods of Treatment
There is no known way to prevent hyperemesis gravidarum, but there are a variety of treatments available for those affected by it. Medications and intravenous fluid infusions are two examples of medical interventions that can be used to restore fluid and electrolyte balance after it has been lost.
In the most severe cases, nutritional supplementation is essential, and it may be required to undergo a surgical operation to provide it. In addition, you may be advised to try some alternative treatments. Bed rest, herbal remedies, and acupressure are some examples of these types of therapies.
Other Factors That Contribute to Weight Loss
If nausea and vomiting are not to blame, and unintended loss of weight during pregnancy, particularly a quick loss of weight, is cause for alarm and should be examined by a medical expert as soon as humanly feasible.
In the same vein, losing weight due to changes in diet, eating disorders, food insecurity, or intentionally dieting are all unhealthy ways to lose weight and should be explored with your primary care practitioner. Other possible factors that could contribute to weight loss during pregnancy include the following:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Disturbances of eating
- Disbalance of the endocrine system
- Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract
- Abnormalities of the nervous system
- Psychiatric illnesses and conditions
- The usage of substances
- Unregulated hyperactivity of the thyroid gland
- Diabetes that has not been detected
- Other forms of chronic illness
“The most critical intervention for a woman losing weight during pregnancy is to identify and address the underlying reason for the inadequate weight growth,” says Dr. Han. “This is the most crucial intervention for a woman losing weight during pregnancy.”
Possible Risks Associated with Weight Loss
In the early stages of pregnancy, it is common for women to experience a temporary loss of a few pounds. However, “dropping weight during pregnancy has been connected with a higher risk of reduced birth weight and preterm delivery,” says Han. “In general,” means that “losing weight during pregnancy has been associated with increased risk.”
Preterm birth is a condition described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as occurring when a baby is delivered before 37 weeks of pregnancy have passed. This means that the baby is born too early. Because their bodies have not been given a chance to grow to their full potential, infants born prematurely and have a low birth weight may be more likely to suffer from additional health concerns or anomalies later in life.
Your doctor will keep a close eye on your weight throughout your pregnancy and weigh you at each prenatal session. This is done to prevent issues that could hurt your unborn child, such as the following:
- Pre-term birth
- Small for their age and having a low birth weight
- Large size and high birth weight at the time of the birth
- Obesity in later years of life
When It Is Recommended That You Lose Weight
To keep a healthy pregnancy, it is not advisable to make an effort to lose weight on your own unless your doctor advises you to do so. For some women who are highly obese, even a slight amount of weight loss may be recommended in certain circumstances. On the other hand, this is somewhat debatable because studies and many experts have conflicting opinions regarding using this strategy.
According to Dr. Han, “some studies have shown that weight gain below the recommended limits may provide some benefit for women with higher body mass index (BMI) > 30 kg/m2 before pregnancy, but may increase the risk for small babies in women with normal or low BMI.” “Some studies have shown that weight gain below the recommended limits may provide some benefit for women with higher body mass index (BMI) > 30 kg/m2 before pregnancy.”
It has been demonstrated that obese women who lose even a modest amount of weight have a lower risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, the need for an emergency cesarean section, and having a baby that is too big. However, these benefits may come at a cost—except for women whose BMI is over 35—because gaining less weight than the suggested standards also raises the risk of difficulties for your baby. This is the case except for women whose BMI is above 35.
When a woman’s BMI puts her in the highest category, it’s possible that she already has enough stored fat to healthily support herself and her baby without gaining as much weight during pregnancy. When it comes to determining whether or not you should try to lose weight or at least cut down on the amount of weight you gain, your physician is in the most excellent position to make that determination.
Recommendations for Gaining Weight
The most recent recommendations from the National Academy of Medicine suggest that you should aim to keep your overall weight gain within the guidelines depending on your body mass index before you become pregnant to keep a healthy pregnancy.
- 18.5 (Underweight) weight between 28 and 40 lbs.
- Typical range: 18.5–24.9 pounds, 25–35 kg
- 25–29.9 (Overweight) between 15 and 25 pounds
- 30–34.9 (Obese), 11–20 pounds
- 11 to 20 pounds for a BMI over 35 (Extremely Obese) (unless otherwise advised by the doctor)
The recommended amount of weight gain during pregnancy is raised by this amount for women carrying twins or other multiples.
How Much Weight Should You Gain?
Even when you’re feeling queasy, maintaining a diet of frequent, light meals high in nutrients will help you fulfill your daily calorie requirements and keep off unwanted pounds.
If you aren’t feeling well, it might be challenging to plan and prepare meals for yourself. If you find this a challenge for you, consider asking your significant other, a close friend, or a member of your extended family for assistance in meal preparation or provision.
Consider seeking the assistance of a nutritionist if you continue to struggle with healthy weight gain and that you continue to lose weight drastically.
A dietitian can create tailored meal plans for you that take into account your preferences in terms of calories and nutrients and your needs. In addition, it might be beneficial to manage any symptoms that are making it difficult for the individual to eat.
Depending on the specifics of your condition, you might benefit from taking anti-thyroid, anti-depressant, or anti-nausea medicine as part of your treatment.
Avoiding uncomfortable and perhaps erroneous at-home weigh-ins is another piece of advice that Dr. Han offers. “I never recommend weighing daily at home owing to natural day-to-day changes,” she says. “Monitoring weight growth trajectory at routine prenatal visits is crucial, though.” “It is vital to monitor weight gain trajectory at routine prenatal visits.”
How to Meet Your Baby’s Nutritional Requirements While You’re Pregnant
To achieve healthy levels of weight gain and nutrition during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, most pregnant women need to raise the number of calories they consume each day by between 340 and 450.
Aim to consume a diet that contains a variety of foods, including lean proteins (such as meats, nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs, dairy, cheese, and tofu), carbs (in the form of healthful fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), and a healthy amount of fat.
Additionally, ensure that your body receives an adequate amount of hydration by drinking enough water. It cannot be easy to understand one’s nutritional requirements and portion sizes completely. Many women, particularly those with additional medical concerns, may benefit from consulting with a dietitian who can guide them through this process.
According to Dr. Han, nutritional recommendations should always be customized and should consider factors such as age, weight, level of physical activity, and existing health issues.
It is possible to experience a pregnancy weight loss at the early stages; nevertheless, this is not suggested to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Unintentional weight loss and an inability to gain weight are both symptoms that should prompt a visit to the doctor, except for the typical morning sickness-induced loss of a few pounds.
If your doctor determines that an underlying ailment is the root cause of your weight loss, they can treat that condition to stop any further weight loss, safeguarding both your health and the health of your unborn child.
How much weight you should lose or gain is best determined by proper evaluation by a dietitian. He or she can help provide nutritional counseling and tailoring meal planning to the person. Instead of focusing on the number that appears on the scale, it is far more vital to prioritize eating in a way that is both healthy and nutritious (and doing so in sufficient quantities).