It's important for women to be at a healthy weight when trying to have a baby and many will go on a diet to boost their chances of conceiving. Research shows that if you're at your ideal weight prior to pregnancy, you'll have a better outcome. Once you're pregnant though, a diet is not a good idea.
"Dieting may help with the imbalance of your hormones and allow you to conceive more successfully, however during your time of pregnancy there are essential nutrients you need and your baby needs for proper growth," explained Karen Cooper, D.O., a women's weight management expert at Cleveland Clinic.
The food you eat when you're pregnant is your body's main source of nutrition, so you don't want to be on a restricted calorie regimen. According to the National Institutes of Health, women need more calories when they're pregnant – about 300 extra calories per day. Pregnant women also need more protein, iron, calcium and folic acid.
Cooper says women who have been on a diet should talk to their doctor or a dietician about how to manage what they're eating now that they're expecting. A dietician can help sort out the carbs, protein and fat so you know how much to eat and how much weight to gain in order to ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Cooper warns that significant weight loss during pregnancy can lead to growth restriction and be harmful to the baby.
"We really don't want to see a lot of weight loss during pregnancy," Cooper said. "We want to ensure that you are doing your best during pregnancy and so is the baby."
Cooper says everyone is different and how much weight you need to gain for a healthy pregnancy varies from person to person, so it's best to talk to your doctor and make sure you fall within the recommended guidelines.
By the numbers: safe weight during pregnancy:
How do you know how much weight is safe to gain during your pregnancy? First, calculate your body mass index (BMI).
For your individual BMI, the National Institutes of Health recommends the following:
- If your BMI is equal to or less than 18.5, then you are underweight and your weight gain should be between 28 to 40 pounds.
- If your BMI is within the normal range (19-24.9), a weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds is ideal.
- If you are overweight (BMI 25-29.9), then your weight gain should be less, from 15 to 25 pounds.
- If you are obese (BMI 30 or more), then gaining between 11 to 20 pounds is sufficient.