Can You Experience Weight Loss During Pregnancy?
Proper weight gain throughout pregnancy is extremely important for the health of you and your baby. However, some women may find that they lose weight during pregnancy, which can be quite concerning. In this article, you can find information on some of the causes of pregnancy weight loss and better understand when it might be a cause for concern.
Recommended Weight Gain For Pregnant Women
Following specific weight guidelines is extremely important for maintaining a healthy pregnancy and ensuring that you do not develop conditions like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia. It can also help to prevent delivery complications. Once you find out that you are expecting, talk to your healthcare provider about your specific weight gain goals to ensure that you and your growing baby can remain healthy throughout the pregnancy.
While the phrase “eating for two” is commonly thrown out when pregnancy is announced, doctor’s don’t actually recommend literally eating for two. In fact, if you fall in a normal weight category (if your body mass index is between 18.5-24.9), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that you only gain between 25 and 35 pounds throughout the entire 40 weeks gestation.
These recommendations will change for women with higher or lower BMIs, as well as for pregnant women expecting multiples. Pregnant women who are underweight should be gaining more pounds throughout their pregnancy (about 28-40 pounds). Conversely, overweight women and obese women need to be gaining less. The ACOG recommends losing between 11 and 20 pounds, depending on your exact weight. If you are unsure about your weight and how much you should be losing or putting on during your pregnancy, it is important to speak to your doctor or OBGYN about this at the start of your pregnancy. Your weight during your pregnancy is something to be taken seriously.
Causes of Weight Loss During Pregnancy
The majority of pregnancy weight gain occurs during the second and third trimesters. Gaining one to two pounds per week is normal during this time frame. However, some women may notice weight loss during this time.
1. Morning Sickness
It should come as no surprise that research shows that “nausea and vomiting are common experiences in pregnancy, affecting 70–80% of all pregnant women.” Thus, many women lose their appetites, and a few pounds, during the first trimester when this symptom is most common. As long as you are still managing to eat a little and are not losing more than a few pounds, moderate morning sickness is not something to be worried about. However, it is important to distinguish between regular morning sickness and a condition referred to as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).
Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)
HG is an extreme form of morning sickness that can lead to severe vomiting, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and even hospitalization. Moreover, this condition does not subside after the first 12 weeks. It is imperative that if you are experiencing these symptoms that you speak with your OB-GYN to find ways to cope. Depending on the amount of weight you are losing, it could increase your risk of complications like a low birth weight and preterm birth.
2. A Change in Daily Habits
Another common reason for weight loss in early pregnancy is the sudden prioritization of one’s health. It’s easy to push off maintaining a healthier diet or incorporating more exercise into our daily routines…most of the time. But when suddenly tasked with growing another human being, many women quickly implement healthy eating habits and engage in safe exercise programs like prenatal yoga, which can cause a drop in weight.
Excess calories from alcohol are also eliminated and replaced with water. This not only remedies symptoms like constipation and hemorrhoids, but it also facilitates the production of amniotic fluid and the development of the placenta. Additionally, drinking more water stimulates your metabolism and suppresses your appetite.
These alterations in one’s daily routine can have a drastic effect on a woman’s body weight and even her percentage of body fat. You should always consult your doctor before engaging in any new exercise programmes during your pregnancy.
3. Third Trimester Symptoms Activities
Within the last few weeks of pregnancy, some women will experience a halt in their weight gain or they may even notice a small amount of weight loss. This is normal. As your baby slowly descends into the birth canal, pressure will be placed onto your bladder. This makes trips to the bathroom more frequent. Furthermore, in the days and weeks before labor, many women also notice more bowel movements and a decreased appetite.
In addition, for the ladies who are determined to test the old wives’ tale that increased physical activity will induce labor, you will suddenly be burning extra calories. Nesting can have a similar effect. All of these factors can lead to a small amount of weight loss.
One third trimester symptom that can be a cause for concern is oligohydramnios (low amniotic fluid). This can occur due to a placental abruption, your water breaking early, or a handful of other health conditions that may be impacting you or your baby. Signs that you have this condition include low kick counts and fluid leaking from your vagina.
For those women who are having trouble retaining their urine, the best way to determine if it is amniotic fluid and not urine is simple. Empty your bladder and put on an unscented panty liner. Wear it for an hour and then inspect the liquid. If it is clear and odorless, it is likely amniotic fluid. If it is yellow and or smells like ammonia, it is urine. When you are noticing an early water break, it is imperative that you speak with your OB-GYN immediately.
Finally, expectant mothers who are simultaneously breastfeeding another child can also notice weight loss due to an improper calorie intake. This activity can burn 500 to 700 calories per day, and if you are not consuming enough food to help recoup what you have lost, weight loss is inevitable.
In order for you to keep up your milk supply and facilitate proper baby growth throughout your pregnancy, it is extremely important that you focus on your diet and getting enough fuel throughout the day. Talk to your doctor about your specific needs and also stay vigilant with taking your prenatal vitamins and drinking plenty of water. These steps will ensure that you maintain a healthy weight.
Dietary Interventions in Pregnancy
While most women should work towards gaining weight throughout their pregnancy, if your pre-pregnancy weight puts you in the obese weight category, your physician may advise you to implement interventions to help you put on less weight throughout the 40 weeks gestation in order to improve the health of you and your little one.
In fact, research shows that “dietary interventions in pregnancy (are) associated with a 33% reduced risk of pre-eclampsia and a 61% reduced risk of gestational diabetes” in overweight and obese women. The study goes on to note that lifestyle interventions like exercise during pregnancy can further improve these outcomes. However, these changes should only be done under the advice and supervision of your physician.
When to See a Doctor
It is important to remember that every pregnancy is different and that there are an array of factors that can impact your weight over the nine months you are pregnant. Try to not calorie count or fixate on the numbers on your scale unless you experience a drastic or sudden change, or have other symptoms that are a cause for concern.
If common causes such as morning sickness are not to blame, it could be that there is a more serious underlying cause of your weight loss. Unintentional or sudden weight loss during pregnancy is a concern that should be taken seriously. Visit your doctor as soon as possible if this occurs, because the following potential causes could be to blame:
- Eating disorders
- Autoimmune disorders
- Uncontrolled overactive thyroid
- Neurological abnormalities
Your doctor will have an extensive list of things that they will want to rule out, these are only some. When it comes to the health and wellness of you and your growing baby, a healthy weight is essential. Always talk to your doctor when you have any concerns.