Pregnancy: Timing of weight gain important

I just found out I am pregnant and know that for a healthy baby I need to gain around 25 pounds. I just don't feel like eating. Will it hurt my baby if I don't gain that weight until later?

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

It is important that you gain the appropriate amount of weight during your pregnancy. The timing of your weight gain can have an important effect on the growth and development of your baby.

According to recent research, low weight gain during your first trimester doesn't appear to negatively affect the growth or development of the fetus. However, during the second trimester your baby is growing the fastest, and during the third, it is quadrupling its fat mass. During second and third trimesters, how well and how much you eat is very important to your baby’s development.

In medical terminology, a fetus who doesn't grow or develop according to schedule suffers from intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR). Babies born with IUGR may experience complications that can last a lifetime, including long-term height and weight deficits. IUGR has multiple causes. One of the causes is low maternal weight gain. So, you are wise to be aware that you need to gain an appropriate amount of weight for the sake of your baby.

Researchers looking at two separate groups of women found that low weight gain in early pregnancy wasn't related to an increase in IUGR, but it was during the second two trimesters. Further confirming the fact that when you gain the weight is important, they noticed that IUGR occurred in women with normal weight gain during the entire pregnancy but low weight gain during the second or third trimester. So if you should not be able to get adequate nutrition during either the second or third trimester you may be putting your baby at risk.

Morning sickness can be a real deterrent to weight gain during the first trimester. However, that needn't be a concern. Usually morning sickness lessens during the second trimester and appetite returns so that you will feel more like eating. During the beginning of the second trimester, if you find that morning sickness is continuing to prevent you from eating and drinking appropriately, you should speak with your midwife or doctor about treatment.

Findings further confirm the risk of dieting during pregnancy. Failing to gain the recommended amount of weight in order to "diet" may be putting your baby at a real risk for lifelong health problems. Remember, there will be plenty of time to go on a weight loss program after your baby is born!

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