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Why you shouldn’t “eat for two” during pregnancy

One of the most common questions women me ask is: “How much weight will I gain during pregnancy?”

What I tell my patients is that each woman will experience weight gain differently. On average, a patient can expect to gain 2–4 pounds during the first three months and 20 to 30 pounds total for the entire pregnancy (40 weeks) if you start your pregnancy at a normal weight.

The answer to this largely depends on whether you’re indulging in the age-old myth that pregnant women need to “eat for two.” Many people have a stereotypical vision of pregnant women devouring ice cream and chocolate daily without guilt and letting cravings dictate their diet. Contrary to popular belief, though, pregnancy isn’t an excuse for a caloric spending spree.

The best thing you can do is to focus on eating well-rounded, nutrient-dense meals. Eat foods rich in iron, calcium, vitamin D, folic acid and protein.

If you were at a healthy weight when you became pregnant, you don’t actually need additional calories during the first trimester to support the development of your baby — which is just the size of a pea at this stage. During the second and third trimesters, you need 350 to 450 more calories a day. Any additional calories are going to you, not your baby.

Weight gain during pregnancy is a balancing act: you don’t want too much and you don’t want too little. If you gain too much weight, you’re at risk for conditions like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. You could experience preterm birth, which puts both you and your baby at risk. Too little weight gain and your baby may be born at a low birth weight.

Eat foods rich in iron, calcium, vitamin D, folic acid and protein. Prenatal supplements are also a good decision.

The best thing you can do is to focus on eating well rounded, nutrient-dense meals. Eat foods rich in iron, calcium, vitamin D, folic acid and protein. Prenatal supplements are also a good decision. You should consult an obstetrician before taking any other supplement. Eating foods high in fiber and drinking plenty of water will also help reduce constipation — a common discomfort of pregnancy.

Staying active is also recommended if your pregnancy is low risk. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise five times a week throughout the pregnancy is recommended for most low-risk patients.

It’s not necessary to count every calorie. As long as you’re getting enough nutrients for you and your baby through a variety of whole food sources and gaining the right amount of weight, then you’re doing just fine.

About the author

Jamie Erwin
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Dr. Jamie Erwin is an OB/GYN with Baylor Scott & White Health.

2 thoughts on “Why you shouldn’t “eat for two” during pregnancy”

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Why you shouldn’t “eat for two” during pregnancy