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Gaining weight is an inevitable aspect of pregnancy that many women understand as normal, but also crucial for the unborn baby’s health. However, managing this weight is just as, if not more important than doing so throughout your everyday life.

Gaining too much weight can increase the chances of health complications for both you and your baby, possibly resulting in a premature birth. A study conducted by the BMJ found that obese women and those who were overweight were at a much higher risk of developing birth defects, with the chances increasing the according to the severity of their weight problems. This stresses the importance of women maintaining their health and weight throughout pregnancy, which can be done by following a number of different strategies.

Prepare beforehand

One of the best ways to ensure a healthy pregnancy is by preparing your body beforehand. Aside from the necessary prenatal vitamins and supplements you should be taking, watch your weight going into your pregnancy. See a medical professional to discuss your current weight, and where he or she thinks you should be at before becoming pregnant. If it is suggested that you lose a certain amount of weight beforehand, you will be given a workout regimen best suited to your lifestyle in order to achieve those goals.

Eat frequently, but eat healthy

A common misconception during pregnancy is that you need to eat as much as you can, whenever you can. While this notion does hold some truth to it, pregnant women do not have to add that much more to their diets in order to nourish their growing babies. Depending on your weight going into the pregnancy, doctors will suggest just how much more you should be consuming on a daily basis.

Typically, you’ll want to focus on consuming smaller meals, but more frequently throughout the day. Try to incorporate as much protein as you can, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, but don’t be afraid to snack (wisely, of course). Apples, peanut butter, and eggs are all great examples of healthy, filling snacks that you could add in between meals.

Manage your cravings

Pregnancy cravings are real, and can be extremely difficult to ignore. Eating healthy every single day for an entire 9 months is a nice goal, but indulging in a few salty or sugary snacks here and there won’t do much harm. However, eating a pint of ice cream once a week can have negative effects on your body, as well as your baby’s. Think of a few healthier alternatives depending on what exactly you’re craving. For example, if it feels as though nothing but french fries will satisfy your appetite, consider sweet potato fries, or trying any one of these healthy french fry recipes.

Exercise moderately

Obviously, physical activity can be extremely beneficial for anyone at any point in their lives, and pregnant women are no exception. Low-intensity exercises such as walking, lifting light weights, and even yoga are great for expecting mothers. One thing that might surprise some is that running is still possible during pregnancy, as long as you’ve had running experience before this stage of your life. Consult your doctor before doing so, however. There may be a number of reasons why avoiding exercise altogether could actually benefit you and your unborn child.