I recently saw a patient, named Elaine who recounted to me how her weight problems began. She said that while she had struggled with diets and efforts to maintain her weight, she was always able to stay within 20 pounds or so of her desired weight. That is, until she became pregnant.
Elaine gained 35 pounds in her first pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Afterwards, she tried to use the same diet and exercise techniques that she had always used in the past. This time she could only lose about 10 of the 35 pounds she had gained.
A few years later, Elaine became pregnant for a second time. During those nine months, she gained 40 pounds and once again gave birth to a healthy baby. She now found that the exercise regimen she would like to do was often painful for her because she had developed discomfort in her knees and back. Dieting alone was not helping her in the least. And to make matters worse, she also now had a case of heartburn that would not go away, and hemorrhoids to boot!
So what does someone like Elaine do?
While there is definitely a postpartum weight loss solution that I recommend, let’s focus for a minute instead on how to prevent this problem.
As with any foreseeable problem, the key is prevention and being prepared. It is very helpful to know how much weight is appropriate to gain during pregnancy and it is helpful to know that any weight gain beyond this level will indeed be harder to lose.
Numerous studies over the last decade have demonstrated that greater weight gain during pregnancy leads to greater “retention” of the weight, meaning women keep the unwanted pounds on long after the baby is born.
So despite some advice that says, “eating for two” allows you to stop watching your weight, it simply isn’t true. You are far better off watching your weight and carefully regulating the amount of weight gain that occurs during pregnancy, especially in this modern environment in which we are surrounding by such high calorie, high carbohydrate meals and snacks.
Most women should gain between 15 and 25 pounds during pregnancy. Any more than that will lead to retention of excess pounds and increased difficulties with health problems related to weight. Furthermore, future pregnancies are likely to be associated with excess weight gain and may be complicated by serious problems such as gestational diabetes.
And here’s some even tougher news: If you are already overweight and then become pregnant, you should gain even less pounds during pregnancy! This means that for an average woman who may consider herself 20 to 30 pounds overweight before she becomes pregnant, it makes sense to limit the weight gain during the nine months of gestation to just 10 to 15 pounds. Wow! That is a far cry from the 50 and 55 pound weight gain that we commonly see nowadays.
In future posts and articles, I discuss in more detail how to avoid gaining more than the permitted amount of weight and how to maintain your health during pregnancy.