Tips for starting pregnancy at a healthy weight
Starting pregnancy at a healthy weight is a great way to help you have a healthier pregnancy. Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy may even help you get pregnant. It can also improve your chances of having a healthy baby.
For example, being at a healthy weight during pregnancy can help:
- Reduce your risk of health problems during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure and gestational diabetes
- Reduce the risk of preterm birth
- Reduce your baby’s risk of having birth defects of the brain and spine (called neural tube defects or NTDs) and heart defects
How do you know the best weight for you?
Talk to your health care provider to find out a healthy weight for you before you get pregnant. One way to know the best weight for you is by calculating your body mass index (BMI). Find out your body mass index (BMI) by entering your height and weight using this BMI calculator.
- A BMI below 18.5 is considered underweight.
- A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered a healthy weight.
- A BMI of 25.0 to 29.9 is considered overweight.
- If you’re affected by obesity (being very overweight), that means your BMI is 30 or higher.
How can you get to a healthy weight before pregnancy?
If you are a person who is overweight or affected by obesity, losing even a small amount of weight can improve your health and help you avoid certain pregnancy complications. Here are some tips for starting pregnancy at a healthier weight.
- Get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy. Your provider can help you find ways to eat healthy and be physically active to help you lose weight before you get pregnant.
- Keep active. Aim for moderate physical activity (such as biking, fast walking or gardening) for 60 minutes a day most days of the week. Or do vigorous physical activity (such as jogging, swimming laps, or doing heavy yard work) for 30 minutes most days of the week. You can spread out the activity throughout the day.
- Eat healthy foods. Talk to your provider or a nutritionist to help you plan your meals. Check out choosemyplate.gov from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It can help you make a healthy eating plan based on your age, weight, height and physical activity. There’s even an app to help you build healthy eating habits. It also has a special section just for pregnant women.
- Plan ahead if you’re eating out. Many restaurants have nutrition facts on their website that you can use to plan your choices ahead of time. Choose restaurants that offer salads and vegetables. Avoid junk food whenever possible.
- Avoid fad diets. The key to getting to a healthy weight isn’t about following the latest diet fads. It’s more about creating an overall lifestyle that includes healthy eating and regular physical activity.
- Be careful with dietary and herbal supplements. Talk to your provider about any dietary or herbal supplements you take. Unlike prescription medicines, supplements are not reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety and effectiveness. Some supplements, such as melatonin and St. John’s wort, may cause problems during pregnancy.
- Talk to your provider about how much weight to gain during pregnancy. Don’t try to stay at the same weight or lose weight during pregnancy. Gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy can help protect your health and the health of your baby:
- If you’re at a healthy weight, you want to gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy.
- If you’re overweight, you want to gain about 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy.
- If you’re affected by obesity, your target range is 11 to 20 pounds.
- These numbers are greater if you are having multiples, such as twins. Learn more about how much weight you should gain during pregnancy here.
- Talk to your provider about how you can be monitored more closely during pregnancy if you’re overweight or affected by obesity. Your provider may want to make changes to ultrasound tests or screen for sleep apnea. This is a sleep disorder that can be more common in pregnant people affected by obesity.
Here’s one more tip when you’re planning a pregnancy: Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid in it every day. Folic acid is a vitamin that every cell in your body needs for healthy growth and development. If you take folic acid before pregnancy and during early pregnancy, it can help protect your baby from neural tube defects.
Learn more about nutrition, weight and fitness during pregnancy.