Are you pregnant and feel like you’re gaining too much weight?
Are you wondering if there is a safe and effective way to lose fat?
You are in the right place.
In this article you are going to learn everything you need to know about fat loss during pregnancy.
Let’s get started.
Although I am a doctor, I am not your doctor. This information is for informational purposes only and should not substitute the advice from your healthcare professional. All kinds of exercise and dietary changes are potentially dangerous, and those who do not seek counsel from the appropriate health care authority assume the liability of any injury which may occur. Please read my full Disclaimer for more information. Also, this post may contain affiliate links: meaning I may receive a commission if you use them.
Ok, moving on.
Can you lose body fat while pregnant?
Yes, you can lose body fat while pregnant- however I do not recommend it.
In general, an appropriate amount of weight gain is necessary to support your growing baby.
With that said, if you were significantly overweight prior to pregnancy you may be able to lose a modest amount of weight without significant consequences.
However, it is important to seek the help of both your obstetrician and nutritionist before considering anything like that.
If you lose too much weight, you will increase your risk of pregnancy complications.
I’ll go into more details later.
So all in all: The official recommendation from the experts is against intentional weight loss during pregnancy.
What happens if you lose weight during pregnancy?
So, are there any negative effects of losing weight during pregnancy?
The most common risks associated with weight loss in pregnancy include:
- a small for gestational age infant (i.e. your baby doesn’t grow appropriately and has a low birth weight)
- and possible preterm delivery
These findings occur in the second and third trimester.
With that said, unintentional weight loss during the first trimester is not uncommon.
This is due to morning sickness, which often happens at any time day during the first 13 weeks. It is accompanied by nausea and vomiting and sometimes weight loss due to the inability to eat or drink.
This weight loss doesn’t usually lead to long term issue unless you develop a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum.
The good news is, morning sickness usually resolves by the 2nd trimester,
How much weight can you safely lose during pregnancy?
There is no actual defined amount of weight loss that is safe to lose in pregnancy.
You must take into consideration how much you weighed prior to pregnancy and how much you currently weigh.
If your body mass index (BMI) was normal or below normal, I would strongly advise against losing weight. In fact if your BMI was below normal you actually need to gain more weight (up to 40 lbs).
If your BMI prior to pregnancy was greater than 30, a modest amount of weight loss, (approximately 5 lbs) might not have negative consequences.
Be sure to follow with your healthcare provider closely if you do lose some weight.
According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, if your BMI is >30 you may not need to gain any weight during your pregnancy, however you will need to be closely followed by your doctor to monitor the growth and development of your baby via sonogram.
How to lose weight while pregnant
Understand that trying to lose weight while pregnant is risky and the growth of your baby can in jeopardy.
While I do not recommend intentional weight loss during pregnancy, I do recommend focusing on not gaining excessive weight.
Let’s go over a few ways to do that.
Tips on how to not gain excessive weight during pregnancy
Your healthcare provider will refer you to a nutritionist who will give you personalized information based on your individual needs.
But for the most part, this advice will be applicable to most expecting mothers.
The number one thing you always have control over is your diet.
In order to not gain excessive weight you must monitor your caloric intake. You could even use a food diary if you’d like.
And let me tell you, calories can add up fast, especially in the form of liquids.
Unfortunately, being pregnant does not mean that you need to eat for two people! Most women will only require about 300-500 extra calories in the second and third trimester.
300-500 calories is a small snack.
If you are interested in learning more about how to control your caloric intake during pregnancy and maintain a healthy diet, check out my Pregnancy Fit Diet.
The next important topic we must discuss is protein
Lean protein during pregnancy is important for the maintenance of muscle tissue, enzyme production, and other bodily functions to occur.
During pregnancy you should aim to consume 0.5-0.7g of protein per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 160lbs, you should try to consume 80-112g of protein per day.
Plus, protein is the most satiating nutrient (i.e. it keeps you full longer than the other two macronutrients).
Staying hydrated is one of the easiest ways to not gain excessive weight during pregnancy.
And I do not mean drinking sugar filled beverages from Starbucks, as these are full of calories!
I am talking about plain water.
In pregnancy you should do your best to drink 8 glasses of water per day which is equivalent to 64oz.
While you’re not eating for two – you should try and drink for two.
You could even try drinking a large glass of water right before a meal to keep your caloric intake in check.
What’s the best way to measure your hydration level?
Look at the color of your urine. If it is a dark yellow, you are dehydrated and need to drink more water! You always want your urine to be a pale yellow color.
Exercise is another great way to maintain a healthy pregnancy weight, increase your chances of having a belly only pregnancy, and decrease your stress level.
Regular exercise helps burn calories while strengthening your muscles that get weakened during pregnancy.
Just be sure to check in with your doctor before starting any sort of exercise program. There may be a reason why you would not be able to exercise in pregnancy.
To learn more about how to safely exercise in pregnancy, check out my post on Getting in Shape While Pregnant.
And if you did exercise prior to pregnancy, continue! This is the best time to keep your workouts going.
Have you heard of NEAT? Also referred to as non-exercise activity thermogenesis.
NEAT simply refers to the number of calories your body burns just doing everyday things.
This is another easy way to burn calories and something you should take advantage of.
You can increase your NEAT with physical activity- walking more, doing the dishes instead of using the dishwasher, fidgeting around while sitting, etc.
Try to stay active for these 9 months and not be a couch potato!
Sleep is extremely important in controlling your weight and minimizing fat retention.
Numerous studies have shown that sleep deprivation is associated with elevated cortisol levels, insulin resistance, and increased caloric consumption.
Obviously, sleep is much harder to get when you’re 6 months pregnant, but just do your best.
Another thing to help you sleep better is to make sure your room is pitch black and not too hot.
When should I worry about weight loss during pregnancy?
A small amount of weight loss (1-3 lbs) probably isn’t worrisome.
However, any significant amount of weight loss during pregnancy can be concerning and I would recommend speaking with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Your provider will have you do a growth ultrasound to measure how your baby is growing. If your baby is not growing appropriately, then you will need much closer follow-up.
In addition, if you begin to develop bloating accompanied with changes in your bowel movements, you may have a malabsorptive disease that will require a workup.
How can I avoid getting fat during pregnancy?
The most important thing you could do to avoid gaining weight during pregnancy is:
- monitor your calories,
- consume a well balanced diet,
- maintain adequate hydration,
- exercise, and
- ensure you are getting enough sleep
With that being said, the most common reason for excess weight gain during pregnancy is due to increased caloric intake so you must ALWAYS pay attention to the amount of food you consume on a daily basis..
Can I get in shape while pregnant?
Yes, you can definitely get in shape while pregnant.
I have an entire article on how to get in shape while pregnant. But as always, check in with your provider before doing any type of exercise or dietary program.
Other Related Questions
Is it OK to lose weight in early pregnancy?
You might be wondering, why am I losing weight during pregnancy? Is this okay?
A few pounds lost during the first trimester due to morning sickness is usually okay and wont have any adverse effects on you or your baby.
It usually resolves by the second trimester and most women will gain the weight back.
If you are losing a significant amount of weight in the first trimester, you may have a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum. If severe, this condition may require IV fluid hydration, electrolyte replacement, and hospital admission.
Do you burn more calories when pregnant?
Yes, you burn more calories when you are pregnant because of the increase in weight and body surface area.
At baseline, your body has to burn calories just to keep your heart pumping, brain functioning, blood flowing, and muscles working. With an increase in body surface area, your body has to work harder to do these bodily functions. Therefore, you burn more calories.
What trimester do you gain the most weight?
You will notice your body weight will increase the most during the 2nd and 3rd trimester. This also corresponds to when your baby starts to gain the most weight.
With that being said, it is usually during the 2nd trimester where you will start to feel like yourself again and be able to participate in the activities you liked to do prior to pregnancy.
Make sure to counteract an excessive increase in weight by sticking to the guidelines I mentioned above.
How can I lose arm fat while pregnant?
You can’t specifically lose arm fat- especially not during pregnancy. Instead, your goal should be to build arm muscle.
I have written an entire article on safe push up variations during each trimester of pregnancy that you might find helpful, along with a full list of arm toning exercises you can do during pregnancy and postpartum.
How can I lose back fat while pregnant?
As I mentioned above, it is quite difficult to lose fat in a particular area. Studies have shown that you cannot spot reduce fat from specific parts of your body.
Instead, you can focus on building muscle which can help get rid of excess, unwanted fat.
I have an entire article on losing back fat postpartum that may be relevant.
*Note, some of the exercises in that post are done on your back or stomach. While pregnant, it is important to not do any sort of exercise where you are flat on your back or on your stomach.*
Final words on Losing Fat During Pregnancy
Losing fat during pregnancy is not recommended and should not be done intentionally. If you lose weight, make sure to be under close supervision from your doctor.
Instead, you should focus on avoiding excessive weight gain during pregnancy, and trying to maintain a healthy weight before getting pregnant.
Now I want to hear from you.
How do you or did you avoid excessive weight gain during pregnancy?
Comment below and let me know!
Related Posts on losing fat during pregnancy
- The Fit Pregnancy Diet
- Cellulite During Pregnancy and How to Get Rid of It
- What To Do If You Are Gaining Too Much Weight In Pregnancy
Get Started With A Free Postpartum Workout Plan To Rebuild Your Pelvic Floor, Heal Your Mommy Tummy, & Tone Your Arms & Legs!
Brittany N Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Brittany N Robles is a full-time OBGYN, a NASM certified personal trainer, and health & fitness expert. She holds a Masters of Public Health degree in maternal health with a special interest in exercise and nutrition. She is also the co-author of The White Coat Trainer. Learn more about her here.
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