A recipe for a healthy pregnancy

A recipe for a healthy pregnancy

When there is a baby on the way, you have a lot on your mind – names, nursery colors and, of course, what you can do to have a healthy pregnancy. There are a number of essential “ingredients” in the recipe for a healthy pregnancy. Two of these include a healthy pregnancy weight and a dash of exercise.

Know the healthy measurements

Just like maternity clothes, weight gain during pregnancy is not “one size fits all.” However, doctors have some general advice. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises that normal-weight women should gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy.

“If you are underweight, overweight, obese or carrying more than one baby, your target weight may differ,” says Marjorie Greenfield, MD, Division Chief of General Obstetrics and Gynecology at University Hospitals MacDonald Women’s Hospital. For example, the Institute of Medicine recommends that overweight women gain 15 to 25 pounds and that obese women gain 11 to 20 pounds during pregnancy. “The bottom line: It is best to talk with your doctor or nurse-midwife about your situation,” says Dr. Greenfield.

Step on the scale to keep pregnancy weight on track

Eating for two does not mean you need to double your calorie intake. In fact, experts recommend eating about 300 more calories per day while pregnant. That amounts to an extra apple and low-fat yogurt every day. In general, your appetite will tell you how much to eat. Aim to gain 2 to 4 pounds total during your first trimester and 3 to 4 pounds per month during your second and third trimesters. “If you find that the number on the scale is rising too slowly or too quickly, talk with your doctor or nurse-midwife about adjusting your diet,” advises Dr. Greenfield.

Safely sweat for two

Being pregnant does not mean you need to retire your gym shoes. Engaging in exercise during pregnancy is a healthy way to stave off unwanted weight gain and improve your sense of well-being. And, according to a recent study, exercising at recommended levels does not cause any harm to babies or mothers.

Researchers tested 45 healthy pregnant women before and after a 30-minute treadmill session. Women who were already active did a vigorous workout, while those just getting started kept a moderate pace. There were no immediate signs of distress following the exercise sessions among either group, and all the women delivered healthy babies.

“Talk with your doctor or nurse-midwife about the activity that is best for you,” says Dr. Greenfield. “Some women with complications may need to take special precautions but, in most cases, staying active will keep you and your little one healthier. Most moms-to-be can do any exercise they want as long as they do not work so hard that they cannot talk and do not risk trauma to the abdomen.”

Stir some exercise into your routine

Exercise can also provide a host of other health benefits for many pregnant women. According to Dr. Greenfield, in addition to keeping weight in check, working out can:

  • Improve sleep
  • Soothe pregnancy-related aches and pains
  • Prepare your body for labor by increasing strength and stamina
  • Boost mood and energy levels

“Most pregnant women can safely exercise the recommended 30 minutes or more per day, but check with your care provider first to determine which activities are best for you,” she says.

Preparing for pregnancy?

Find pregnancy articles, tips and more in our Pregnancy and Newborn Library at UHhospitals.org/HealthyPregnancy.

Marjorie Greenfield

MARJORIE GREENFIELD, MD
Division Chief, General Obstetrics and Gynecology, UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital
Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

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