While most conversations surrounding weight and pregnancy deal with gaining weight, there's also a whole other discussion to be had about losing weight. Prevailing social expectations of "beauty" are difficult to buck, even when you're focused on something as taxing as pregnancy. Fitting into some preconcieved social standard of attractiveness should never be the goal, to be sure, but that doesn't mean women aren't asking themselves, "Can you lose weight when pregnant?" Whether it's due to social pressure or health concerns, that question should come second to the following: should you lose weight while you're pregnant? Make no mistake, when you're growing another human being inside your body (and, hell, when you're not, too) an arbitrary number on some scale is inconsequential when compared to your overall health and wellness.
As far as health is concerned, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says it's safe to exercise when you're pregnant, adding that regular exercise might even be beneficial as long as it's not too strenuous. The ACOG goes on to add that, in terms of weight gain or loss, they take all BMIs into account. With that said, those in the normal range are encouraged to gain a bit more weight than those labeled overweight or obese.
Sherry Ross, M.D., OB/GYN and women's health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California adds that, regardless of BMI, due to the possibility of putting a pregnant body into starvation-mode (therefore causing a multitude of other issues and complications), there isn't a single circumstance when weight loss is advised during pregnancy.
According to Women's Health, there are some circumstances where a woman who's been overweight, or gets a diagnosis of gestational diabetes and decides to make healthier decisions during the remainder of her pregnancy, ends up losing weight as a result of certain changes in her overall diet. Losing weight while pregnant happens for a few reasons, but should never be a pregnant woman's goal.
In a study published in the British Medical Journal shows that weight management may be beneficial during pregnancy, but only if done safely. By making better food choices for the health of mother and baby, weight might decrease, but so does the risk of gestational diabetes, miscarriage, premature birth, and high blood pressure. Along those same lines, The Mayo Clinic backs up this initial claim, saying healthy weight management can lead to a lower risk of preeclampsia (which can be fatal).
Regardless of where you're at before pregnancy, or what you eat, restricting calories meant to nourish your growing baby while pregnant might be a sign of something more concerning (such as an eating disorder) and you should consult with a trusted doctor. If you're doing all the things you're supposed to and still can't figure out why the weight won't stay on, again, it's time to talk to a doctor. Some women have higher metabolism than others, but it's important to get medical advice before attempting to remedy yourself.
While weight gain is usually a concern when you're pregnant, ensuring you and your growing baby are healthy is the bottom line — whatever that means within the realms of your lifestyle, health, and wellness. Losing weight w hen you're pregnant in order to fit some usually unattainable, often unhealthy ideal is not only discouraged, it's dangerous.
If you struggle with an eating disorder, please seek professional help. You can also call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.