Skip to main content

The Ultimate Guide to a Belly-Only Pregnancy

We share tips for how to have a healthy belly-only pregnancy and stay fit.
How to Have a Belly-Only Pregnancy
Updated: October 13, 2023
Medically reviewed by  Alison Shely, DNP, FNP-C
Table of contents

For some women, the ideal pregnancy is belly-only. A belly-only pregnancy means gaining weight only in the belly while keeping your limbs and behind toned and fit. While a belly-only pregnancy may be possible for some women, what’s really important is that pregnant women strive for a healthy pregnancy.

It's important to know upfront that this may not be possible or even healthy for a lot of people, so don't be discouraged if that's you! What's important is a healthy baby.

Is a Belly-Only Pregnancy Possible?

Yes, a belly-only pregnancy is possible, and for someone already in great physical shape, a great goal, but don’t stress if you gain some extra pounds. Pregnancy weight gain is normal, expected, and healthy.

Before we go any further, what is a belly-only pregnancy? This is not a medical term but was defined in a study published in the Eating and Weight Disorders journals as "maintaining a defined body through exercise and nutrition regimes during pregnancy striving to ensure a complication-free birth and regain a slim and toned appearance as soon as possible postpartum." The study also points out here that it's important to emphasize that this is not about body image but about health!

Different body types gain and store fat in certain areas of the body. The most important goal is to gain a healthy amount of weight, about 25-35 pounds, and keep your body trim and fit. As previously mentioned, weight gain during pregnancy is healthy and expected. Keeping it in this healthy window, not lower or higher, is how to maintain a "belly-only" pregnancy. 

Distribution of Weight During Pregnancy

Weight gain is a normal and healthy part of pregnancy, but where do you actually gain the weight?. Assuming you start your pregnancy at a healthy weight (this may vary if you start your pregnancy over or under weight), here is the average distribution:

  • Baby = 7.5 pounds
  • Amniotic fluid = 2 pounds
  • Blood = 4 pounds
  • Body fluids = 4 pounds
  • Breasts = 2 pounds
  • Fat, protein, and other nutrients = 7 pounds
  • Placenta = 1.5 pounds
  • Uterus = 2 pounds

Benefits of a Belly-Only Pregnancy

Belly-Only Benefits

Staying in shape while expecting will help you look and feel your best. And it isn’t just a confidence boost! Maintaining a healthy pregnancy weight helps control your blood sugar, results in fewer aches and pains, and helps you get better sleep. Labor and delivery may be easier too. Obese women are more likely to have large babies, which could result in an emergency C-section. All of these benefit your baby as well! If your blood sugar is well controlled, your baby will have a lower risk of developing diabetes later in life. Having an easy delivery puts your baby at lower risk for birth related trauma or injury, as well as the effects that come with c-sections!

Additionally, keeping a healthy weight while pregnant helps you lose weight faster later during the postpartum period. This is because you naturally shed pregnancy weight when your body is no longer having to provide nutrients for your baby, especially if you breastfeed (which can burn an extra 500 calories a day!). However, getting back to your average weight after pregnancy will be more challenging if you put on unnecessary weight.

Do You Need to Watch Your Weight While Pregnant?

Eating for two does not mean that you need to double your calorie intake. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women only need an additional 300-400 calories daily (600 for twins). On the contrary, excessive weight gain is dangerous for your unborn baby. Putting on too many pounds puts you at risk for birth complications like early delivery, C-section, and excessive postpartum bleeding.

The CDC recommends the following weight gain parameters during the entire pregnancy based on pre-pregnancy weight: 

  • Underweight (BMI <18.5): 28-40 pounds
  • Normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9): 25-35 pounds 
  • Overweight (BMI 25- 29.9): 15-25 pounds 
  • Obese (BMI >30): 11-20 pounds 

So the answer to the question is yes, you should watch your weight while pregnant to make sure you are gaining a healthy amount for you and your baby.

Your Guide To a Belly-Only Pregnancy

Trimester 1

The start of pregnancy is not always comfortable. Many women experience morning sickness and food aversions. Therefore, working out and strict diets may not feel like a high priority. First of all, you will probably not have the energy to exercise, nor will you be able to stomach much. Secondly, you will want to avoid overheating your body, which can affect fetal development during the first trimester.

However, despite the lack of energy and possible food aversions engaging in light physical activity and healthy eating in early pregnancy sets the stage for good habits for the duration of your pregnancy.

Exercise Tips for the First Trimester

  • Avoid bouncing and jumping
  • Avoid contact sports
  • Take time to stretch, warm up, and cool down
  • Stay hydrated
  • Go to specific prenatal classes
    • Yoga
    • Pilates
    • Low-impact aerobics
    • Swimming

Eating Tips for the First Trimester

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine
  • Avoid eating sugary foods in excess
  • Take your prenatal vitamins
  • Eat lots of healthy foods
    • Whole grains
    • Fruits & veggies
    • Lean proteins

To sum it up, take things slowly during the first trimester. Eat whatever you can keep down, and skip the vigorous exercise. Taking walks may be the best workout for you, and the fresh air may even ease your nausea.

Check out this printable list of the dos and don’ts of exercise during pregnancy for your complete guide.

Trimester 2

The second trimester comes with renewed energy and relief from morning sickness. As a result, your appetite will probably come back full force, complete with cravings. Your returned appetite may prompt you to overeat and indulge. The second semester is the time you need to start eating extra calories, approximately 350 calories a day, but don’t go overboard because you could end up putting on extra weight you don’t need.

Take advantage of the extra spring in your step by getting back into a workout routine. Try to do 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three to four days per week. Focus on training that tones your arms, legs, and butt.

It is best to stick with activities that you have already done pre-pregnancy. This is not the time to start a new exercise regime or try a new sport for the first time.

Exercise Tips for the Second Trimester

  • Walking is an excellent form of exercise during pregnancy
  • Prenatal yoga
  • Stationary cycling
  • Low impact cardio
  • Stay hydrated
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing
  • Rest when needed

Eating Tips for the Second Trimester

  • Aim for 5-6 small meals a day
  • Choose dense proteins and full-fat dairy
  • Continue taking prenatal vitamins as directed by your healthcare provider
  • Avoid empty sugary carbs, and stick with whole grains
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine

Trimester 3

Trimester 3

The final weeks of pregnancy can feel cumbersome; the baby grows rapidly, and your pregnant belly will pop if it hasn’t already. Your energy levels will likely start to slow down as your belly becomes cumbersome. You may experience an uptick in heartburn, fatigue, back pain, and leg cramps, which makes exercising more difficult.

As your baby grows, your stomach will have less room, so eating several small, dense meals during the day is vital in the third trimester. In addition, keep hydrated and eat inflammation-reducing foods like fennel and turmeric, so you don’t retain excess water weight. You may consider using CBD oil for inflammation. Read here for medical advice on whether it is safe to use CBD oil during pregnancy.

Continue your workout routine, slowing it down and adjusting as needed. Try to avoid becoming sedentary, which can result in increased blood pressure, extra weight gain, and trouble sleeping. If nothing else, take walks if your regular exercise is no longer possible.

Focus on getting enough sleep during the third trimester. Sleep deprivation will spike your cortisol. This increases your appetite and decreases your reasoning skills. That is a recipe for an ice cream binge-fest. Plus, not getting enough sleep also puts your body into survival mode, which slows down metabolism.

Exercise Tips for the Third Trimester

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Pelvic exercises to increase the strength of your pelvic floor
  • Take frequent breaks
  • Stay hydrated
  • Engage in gentle stretching and yoga

Eating Tips for the Third Trimester

  • 1000 mcg of calcium per day
  • Fresh fruits and veggies
  • Whole grains
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine
  • Avoid spicy and greasy food if you’re suffering from heartburn

What NOT to do to Manage Pregnancy Weight Gain

While the desire to stay fit and healthy during pregnancy probably comes from a good place, if you’re not careful, your attempts to manage your weight could affect your ability to deliver a full-term healthy baby.

If you are not gaining weight or are experiencing weight loss during your pregnancy, you should speak with your doctor. Underweight women are more likely to deliver preterm, have a baby with low birth weight, suffer from preeclampsia, and require surgical and obstetric interventions and possible maternal mortality during delivery.

You should never take any supplements or vitamins without the express consent of your physician. This is because certain medications and supplements could result in congenital abnormalities or birth defects.

A final caution is to avoid over-exercising or trying new sports and activities. All pregnancy exercises should be low-impact, and classes should be geared explicitly towards pregnancy. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing, take breaks as needed, and stay hydrated.

Having a belly-only pregnancy can help keep you healthier and lose weight faster postpartum, but the most important thing is that you and your baby are as healthy as can be!

Sources + Weight gain during pregnancy. 2020. Nutrition During Pregnancy. 2022.

Mathe, Jennifer. 5 Pelvic Floor Exercises for Anyone and Everyone. 2021.

Hollander, D. Being Underweight Does Not Raise the Risk of Most Pregnancy Complications. 2001.

Steube, F., Löwe, B., & Weigel, A. (2022, October). “belly only pregnancy” content on social media and in internet blogs: A qualitative analysis on its definition and potential risks and benefits. Eating and weight disorders : EWD.,soon%20as%20possible%20post%2Dpartum.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, June 13). Weight gain during pregnancy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

MediLexicon International. (n.d.). Breastfeeding and weight loss: Why it may or may not happen. Medical News Today.,body%20uses%20may%20lose%20weight.




L. Elizabeth Forry

About L. Elizabeth Forry

L. Elizabeth Forry is an Early Childhood Educator with 15 years of classroom… Read more

Join the Family

Your partner in parenting from baby name inspiration to college planning.