Being Pregnant and Overweight: Symptoms and Risks You Must Know!

Has your doctor told you that you’re overweight during pregnancy? He might have mentioned to you that being overweight could lead to some complications for you or your baby.

So, here you are, and you’re wondering what the risks are. You might have questions about the safety and future of your pregnancy, or if it’s safe to try to lose weight while pregnant. Pregnant women have dozens of questions each day anyway, overweight or not. 

Try not to panic – seriously. 

With the right knowledge and plan, your pregnancy will be safe and sound. Try not to be too worried, and keep reading to learn what you need to know about being overweight and pregnancy. 

What Classifies You as Being Overweight or Obese

So, how do you know if you’re classified as being overweight?

Well, your doctor will take a look at your body mass index, called your BMI, and it has to be based on your pre-pregnancy BMI, not your pregnancy BMI. To calculate BMI, your doctor looks at your body fat compared to your height and weight. 

Overweight is classified as a BMI between 25.0 to 29.9 before pregnancy.

This means you do have excess body weight, and around 75% of American women are overweight. You’re in good company. 

Obesity is classified as a pre-pregnancy BMI of 30.0or higher. 

If you’re obese, you have an excess amount of body fat, as well as 36% of American women. 

Potential Complications and Risk of Being Overweight During Pregnancy

Typically, the more overweight you are, the more likely you are to have complications. If you’re on the border between being normal weight and overweight, your complications or risks are lower than someone who is on the upper end of being obese.

Here are some complications that you might experience.

  • High Blood Pressure (Preeclampsia)
  • Blood Clotting Problems 
  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Problems with Anesthesia 
  • Increased Risk of a C-SEction 
  • Miscarriage or Stillbirth 
  • Problems Breastfeeding 

Obesity has some other increased risks, such as:

  • Infections during pregnancy
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • Venous Thromboembolism 

Complications for Your Baby 

Being overweight or obese in pregnancy can increase risks for your baby as well. Here are a few potential problems.

  • Premature Birth (before 37 weeks)
  • Birth Defects
  • Macrosomia (Large for Gestational Age): Baby 9lbs 15 ounces at birth 
  • Increased Risk of Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Obesity Later in Life 

Is It Even Safe to Get Pregnant While Overweight?

In an ideal world, if you were overweight, you would take time to lose some of the weight before getting pregnant, but we don’t live in that world. Many pregnancies are unplanned. 

Most women who are overweight will go on to have a successful pregnancy. While there are a lot of increased risks and complications, that doesn’t mean the risks will happen to you as a guarantee. 

Be sure to talk to your doctor if you decide that you want to have a baby. He can help you create a plan to get healthy and get pregnant. 

Will I Receive Extra Care if I’m Overweight and Pregnant?

You don’t receive extra care if you’re overweight, but those who have a BMI over 30.0 might be referred to a dietician for advice on healthy eating and exercise. 

You might also receive a few other appointments or tests, including:

  • Additional ultrasound scans to watch your baby’s development
  • Gestational diabetes test. If you’re BMI is over 40, they may prefer the test even earlier.
  • A risk of assessment for thrombosis, which are blood clots in your legs or lungs. 

Can Being Overweight Make it Harder to Get Pregnant?

Before you are pregnant, being overweight or obese can make it harder to get pregnant than a woman who is at a healthy weight. Obesity increases the risk of needing fertility help, but it also can decrease the likelihood that in vitro fertilization (called IVF) would be successful. 

Why is getting pregnant harder? One word – estrogen. 🙁

Ovaries make estrogen, which is a necessary female hormone, and fat cells produce estrogen. If you have excess body fat, your fat cells release more estrogen. 

If you have too much natural estrogen, it can cause your body to act as if you’re taking birth control. It can prevent you from ovulating and even from having a monthly menstrual cycle.

Does it Cause a Miscarriage?

Unfortunately, being overweight can increase the likelihood of a miscarriage or stillbirth. Some studies show that obesity is linked to a higher risk of miscarriage and recurrent miscarriages. 

For women who are overweight, the overall risk of a miscarriage before 12 weeks is 1 in 5, equaling a 20% risk. For women with a BMI over 30.0, the risk of a miscarriage is 1 in 4, equaling a 25% risk. 

Despite the increased risk, it’s important to remember that most women who are overweight won’t have a miscarriage. If you’re obese and have a miscarriage, you’re far more likely to go on to have a successful pregnancy than to have another miscarriage. 

When Do You Start Showing in Pregnancy if You’re Overweight?

If you already have a belly, you might wonder if you’ll even show a baby belly. All women want to pop and have the classic baby belly. 

The truth is that it’s impossible to tell you when or if you’ll show. All women are different, and a lot of women who aren’t underweight don’t show until they’re in their third trimester despite a low BMI. It all depends on how your body carries the weight. 

So, unless you’ve been pregnant before, only time will tell how your body reacts and changes as your pregnancy progresses. 

During Which Trimester Do You Gain the Most Weight?

You’ll gain the most weight in the second trimester. During this time, your pregnancy goes into overdrive, and you start to gain weight. Not all women gain weight during the first trimester due to nausea and morning sickness, but almost all will gain some weight during the second trimester.

Why not the third trimester?

Well, the third trimester is when your baby gains the most weight, but that doesn’t mean you will. Some pregnant women notice that their appetite decreases in the third trimester and that weight gain plateaus as you near labor and delivery. 

How Can Overweight and Obese Women Increase Have a Healthy Pregnancy?

It might seem like the odds are stacked against you, but they aren’t. You can still have a healthy, normal, successful pregnancy even if you’re overweight or obese. 

Here are some helpful suggestions that all women should know. 

Get a Preconception Checkup

If you’re trying to conceive, it’s a good idea to go to the doctor first. A preconception checkup is when your healthcare provider shows you how to eat healthily and how to be as physically active as possible.

This does give you the chance to lose weight before pregnancy, which is healthy for both of you. It also gives you the option to consider weight loss surgery before you get pregnant. 

Regular Prenatal Care

You should head to your doctor early in your pregnancy and get proper prenatal care. Your doctor will run necessary prenatal tests and perform ultrasound tests to be sure that your baby is developing normally.

Pick a Weight Gain Goal

Set a goal for a healthy weight gain during pregnancy. Typically, if you’re overweight, you’ll gain between 15-25 pounds, and someone who is obese should gain 11-20 pounds.

Together, you can create a goal and a plan to meet that goal. Learn how I lost 30lbs after my c-section.

Be Active Daily

pregnant woman exercise with dumbbells

Talk to your doctor about what type of activities are safe for you during pregnancy. Exercise is generally safe, but if you weren’t exercising before your pregnancy, you’ll need to take it easy. Something as simple as a daily, evening walk can make a huge difference in your overall health and weight gain during pregnancy.

Eat Healthy Foods But Don’t Diet 

Ideally, you don’t want to go on a “diet” because some diets can restrict the nutrients that your baby needs for proper growth. That’s not healthy. 

Instead, you should work with a nutritionist to help plan a healthy diet that encompasses all food groups. 

Is It Safe to Lose Weight While Pregnant if You’re Overweight?

In general, it’s not a good idea to purposefully plan to lose weight while pregnant, overweight, or not. It’s one thing if you lose a few pounds in the first trimester because of morning sickness. However, dieting and losing a lot of weight does more harm than give.

Dieting could harm your baby, and that’s the last thing that you want to do!

Instead, focus on eating well and being active, based on the plan you create with your doctor. You might find that you don’t gain any weight at all while you’re pregnant. That’s fine and won’t harm your baby at all. 

Final Thoughts

Being overweight and pregnant doesn’t mean that you need to panic. It means that you need to know your risks and complications, and use the knowledge that you have to create a diet and exercising plan to help you have a healthy, successful pregnancy, 

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