Have a Baby Without Losing Your Body

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Does having a baby mean lasting weight gain? It seems so for many women.

A study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that excessive pregnancy weight gain happens for women of all pre-pregnancy sizes. Once that weight goes on, it’s hard to get off with the added responsibility of a new baby.

Of underweight women, 23.5 percent gained too much. For normal weight women, 37.6 percent packed on too much weight. Overweight women fare worse. 61.6 percent of overweight women and 55.8 percent of obese women gained more than what their doctors recommended.

Gaining too much weight during pregnancy contributes to raising risks of many diseases — including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer — but increased clothing sizes and stretch marks are the most evident and immediate side effects.

Of course, baby’s health is top priority for pregnant women, but women planning to have a baby can take a few steps to maintain their own bodies.

“Pregnancy is a healthy event,” said Lori Gehl childbirth educator, doula and child birth midwife assistant with WNY Childbirth in Buffalo. “It makes sense to be healthy before your pregnancy to support a healthy pregnancy.”

Ideally, women should get healthy before conception by forming good health habits such as eating a well-balanced diet comprised of a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein, and plant-derived fats.

“Wellness is 70 percent nutrition,” said Dennis Scott, owner of Core Fitness in Buffalo. “I find that with a mother who takes care of herself and is eating healthful foods and natural options, there’s a tendency in the children to be the same.”

Some women still believe that “eating for two” equals two adult-sized portions, but according to the CDC, women can wait until the second trimester to increase their caloric intake, and then they need only an additional 340 to 450 calories daily.

As with other aspects of health, women’s care providers can offer detailed advice on eating healthfully before, during and after pregnancy.

Women should also establish a fitness routine before pregnancy to help control weight and increase strength. Gaining too much weight or gaining weight too quickly contributes to stretch marks.

As you get ready to give birth, the better shape you’re in the easier your delivery will be and the easier you will be able to recover.

The CDC recommends 150 minutes weekly exercise to maintain current weight. Women who need to lose weight should increase the time. Exercise should consist of aerobic movement, which raises the heart rate, and resistance training, which strengthens muscle.

Scott recommends that during pre-pregnancy women perform exercises that increase flexibility, get their heart rate up, and strengthen their muscles. Adequate sleep is also important.

After birthing, most women find their abdomens sagging, even after the uterus returns to normal size. Obtaining a tight core before pregnancy can help reduce this effect.

“What you do beforehand can make a big difference,” said Joe Fox, personal trainer and owner of Train Smart in Williamsville. “People need to understand what the core is. It’s more than the belly. All movement begins in your core.”

He believes that with many women, their core becomes not tuned during pregnancy, which can later contribute to both issues that many women consider cosmetic and also, Fox added, forgetting how to move properly.

Injury eventually happens and further inactivity.

“It’s the perfect mechanism for a lack of function, injury and death,” he said.

Getting in shape before pregnancy can help most women safely continue to exercise through pregnancy and beyond.