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This publication is part of the Healthy Eating & Physical Activity Across Your Lifespan Series from the Weight-control Information Network (WIN). The series offers health tips for readers at various life stages, including adulthood, pregnancy, parenthood, and later life. The series is also available in Spanish.
How can I use this publication?
This publication is one of several resources from WIN that may help you and your family. It gives you tips on how to eat better and be more active while you are pregnant and after your baby is born. Use the ideas and tips in this publication to improve your eating pattern and be more physically active.
These tips can also be useful if you are not pregnant but are thinking about having a baby! By making changes now, you can get used to new eating and activity habits and be a healthy example for your family for a lifetime.
Why is gaining a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy important?
Gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy helps your baby grow to a healthy size. But gaining too much or too little weight may lead to serious health problems for you and your baby.
Too much weight gain raises your chances for diabetes and high blood pressure during pregnancy and after. If you are overweight when you get pregnant, your chances for health problems may be even higher. It also makes it more likely that you will have a hard delivery and need a cesarean section (C-section).
Gaining a healthy amount of weight helps you have an easier pregnancy and delivery. It may also help make it easier for you to get back to your normal weight after delivery. Research shows that a healthy weight gain can also lower the chances that you or your child will have obesity and weight-related problems later in life.
How much weight should I gain during my pregnancy?
How much weight you should gain depends on how much you weighed before pregnancy. See the following box on "Weight Gain during Pregnancy" for more advice.1
It is important to gain weight very slowly. The old myth that you are "eating for two" is not true. During the first 3 months, your baby is only the size of a walnut and does not need very many extra calories. The following rate of weight gain is advised:
Talk to your health care provider about how much weight you should gain. Work with him or her to set goals for your weight gain. Take into account your age, weight, and health. Track your weight at home or at your provider visits using charts from the Institute of Medicine. See Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Reexamining the Guidelines in the Resources section for a link to these charts.
Do not try to lose weight if you are pregnant. Healthy food is needed to help your baby grow. Some women may lose a small amount of weight at the start of pregnancy. Speak to your health care provider if this happens to you.
1 Institute of Medicine. Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Reexamining the Guidelines. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press; 2009.
How much should I eat?
Eating healthy foods and the right amount of calories helps you and your baby gain the proper amount of weight.
How much food you need depends on things like your weight before pregnancy, your age, and how fast you gain weight. In the first 3 months of pregnancy, most women do not need extra calories. You also may not need extra calories during the final weeks of pregnancy.
Check with your doctor about this. If you are not gaining the right amount of weight, your doctor may advise you to eat more calories. If you are gaining too much weight, you may need to cut down on calories. Each woman's needs are different. Your needs depend on if you were underweight, overweight, or obese before you became pregnant, or if you are having more than one baby.
What kinds of foods should I eat?
A healthy eating plan for pregnancy includes nutrient-rich foods. Current U.S. dietary guidelines advise eating these foods each day:
A healthy eating plan also limits salt, solid fats (like butter, lard, and shortening), and sugar-sweetened drinks and foods.
Does your eating plan measure up? How can you improve your eating habits? Try eating fruit like berries or a banana with low-fat yogurt for breakfast, a salad with beans for lunch, and a lean chicken breast and steamed veggies for dinner. Think about things you can try. Write down your ideas in the space below and share them with your doctor.
For more about healthy eating, see the MyPlate links in the Resources section of this fact sheet. They include a link to the online program "Daily Food Plan for Moms." It can help you make an eating plan for each trimester (3 months) of your pregnancy.
Do I have any special nutrition needs now that I am pregnant?
Yes. During pregnancy, you need more vitamins and minerals, like folate, iron, and calcium.
Getting the right amount of folate is very important. Folate, a B vitamin also known as folic acid, may help prevent birth defects. Before pregnancy, you need 400 mcg per day. During pregnancy and when breastfeeding, you need 600 mcg per day from foods or vitamins. Foods high in folate include orange juice, strawberries, spinach, broccoli, beans, and fortified breads and breakfast cereals.
Most health care providers tell women who are pregnant to take a prenatal vitamin every day and eat a healthy diet. Ask your doctor about what you should take.
What other new eating habits may help my weight gain?
Pregnancy can create some new food and eating concerns. Meet the needs of your body and be more comfortable with these tips:
What foods should I avoid?
There are certain foods and drinks that can harm your baby if you have them while you are pregnant. Here is a list of items you should avoid:
Should I be physically active during my pregnancy?
Almost all women can and should be physically active during pregnancy. Regular physical activity may
If you were physically active before you became pregnant, you may not need to change your exercise habits. Talk with your health care provider about how to change your workouts during pregnancy.
It can be hard to be physically active if you do not have child care for your other children, have not worked out before, or do not know what to do. Keep reading for tips about how you can work around these things and be physically active.
How can I stay active while pregnant?
Even if you have not been active before, you can be active during your pregnancy by using the tips below:
How can I stay safe while being active?
For your health and safety, and for your baby's, you should not do some physical activities while pregnant. Some of these are listed below. Talk to your health care provider about other physical activities that you should not do.
Make a plan to be active while pregnant. List the activities you would like to do, such as walking or taking a prenatal yoga class. Think of the days and times you could do each activity on your list, like first thing in the morning, during lunch break from work, after dinner, or on Saturday afternoon. Look at your calendar or planner to find the days and times that work best, and commit to those plans.
AFTER THE BABY IS BORN
How can I stay healthy after my baby is born?
After you deliver your baby, your health may be better if you try to return to a healthy weight. Not losing weight may lead to overweight or obesity later in life. Returning to a healthy weight may lower your chances of diabetes, heart disease, and other weight-related problems.
Healthy eating and physical activity habits after your baby is born may help you return to a healthy weight faster and give you energy.
After your baby is born
How may breastfeeding help?
Breastfeeding may or may not make it easier for you to lose weight because your body burns extra energy to produce milk. Even though breastfeeding may not help you lose weight, it is linked to other benefits for mother and child.
Many leading health groups advise breastfeeding only for the first 6 months of the baby's life. This means that you should feed your baby only breast milk during this time—no other foods or drinks. Experts suggest that women breastfeed at least until the baby reaches 12 months. In months 6 through 12, you may give your baby other types of food in addition to breast milk.
Calorie needs when you are breastfeeding depend on how much body fat you have and how active you are. Ask your doctor how many calories you need.
What else may help?
Pregnancy and the time after you deliver your baby can be wonderful, exciting, emotional, stressful, and tiring—all at once. These feelings may cause you to overeat, not eat enough, or lose your drive and energy. Being good to yourself can help you cope with your feelings and follow healthy eating and physical activity habits.
Here are some ideas that may help:
Additional Reading from the Weight-control Information Network
The following publications are available to download on WIN's publications page and also by calling WIN toll-free at 1–877–946–4627:
Better Health and You: Tips for Adults helps adults plan steps toward consuming healthier foods and beverages and being more physically active. Featuring a tear-off tip sheet perfect for posting on your fridge, this brochure also explains the benefits of getting healthy and the harmful effects of being overweight.
Changing Your Habits: Steps to Better Health explains how people can take small steps to become more physically active and consume healthier foods and beverages.
Energize Yourself and Your Family! describes how being healthy and active can help you gain the energy you need to keep up with the demands of your busy life. Tips suggest how you can take better care of yourself to be there for the people who depend on you.
Just Enough for You: About Food Portions explains the difference between a portion and a serving, and offers tips to help readers choose healthy portions.
The World Around You provides tips on how to use the world around you, no matter who you are or where you live, to stay healthy and fit.
2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Aim for a Healthy Weight
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child
Food and Nutrition Information Center
March of Dimes
National Diabetes Education Program
National Kidney Disease Education Program
Office on Women's Health
Online Body Mass Index Calculator for Adults
U.S. Government's Food Safety Website
Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Reexamining the Guidelines
Inclusion of resources is for information only and does not imply endorsement by NIDDK or WIN.
LIFESPAN TIP SHEET FOR PREGNANCY
BODY MASS INDEX TABLE
To use the table, find the appropriate height in the left-hand column labeled Height. Move across to a given weight (in pounds).
Why should I participate in clinical trials?
Clinical trials are research studies involving people. Clinical trials look at safe and effective new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. To learn more about clinical trials, why they matter, and how to participate, visit the NIH Clinical Research Trials and You website at http://www.nih.gov/health/clinicaltrials. For information about current studies, visit http://www.ClinicalTrials.gov.
Weight-control Information Network
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The Weight-control Information Network (WIN) is a national information service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). WIN provides the general public, health professionals, and the media with science-based, up-to-date, culturally relevant materials and tips. Topics include how to consume healthy foods and beverages, barriers to physical activity, portion control, and eating and physical activity myths.
Publications produced by WIN are carefully reviewed by both NIDDK scientists and outside experts. This fact sheet was also reviewed by Suzanne Phelan, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Kinesiology, California Polytechnic State University and Linda Van Horn, Ph.D., R.D., Professor of Preventive Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
This publication is not copyrighted. WIN encourages you to copy and share as many copies as desired.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
NIH Publication No. 06–5130
To contact WIN, call toll free 1–877–946–4627; fax: 202–828–1028; email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
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