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How to Deal With Weight Gain Anxiety During Pregnancy

by Vannessa Rhoades 29 Jul 2022
How to Deal With Weight Gain Anxiety During Pregnancy

Feeling nervous about weight gain during pregnancy? You aren’t alone. Your body experiences a myriad of changes – some positive, some less so – when growing a new human. Let’s talk about when you start gaining weight, how much weight you should gain for a healthy baby, and some of the most common anxieties and fears about weight gain during pregnancy.

When Do You Start Gaining Weight in Pregnancy?

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), “the amount of weight gained during pregnancy can affect the immediate and future health of a woman and her infant.” In general, most people should aim to gain between 25 to 35 pounds over the entire course of the pregnancy. Typically, weight gain is around 2 to 4 pounds during the first three months of pregnancy, then about a pound per week for the remainder of gestation. 

How Much Weight Should You Gain During Pregnancy?

The precise amount of weight gain that’s right for you depends on your individual situation.

  • Obese people may need to gain less, only about 15 to 25 pounds, depending on how much they weighed prior to pregnancy.
  • Underweight individuals may need to gain more, perhaps 28 to 40 pounds, depending on their healthcare provider’s advice.
  • A multiple-baby pregnancy requires additional weight gain. For example, a person with a healthy pre-pregnancy BMI who’s carrying twins may need to gain between 37 and 54 pounds.
How to Deal With Weight Gain Anxiety During Pregnancy

Common Fears About Pregnancy Weight Gain

Gaining Too Much Weight

Even though we know weight gain is necessary during pregnancy for a healthy baby, some people just have trouble mentally adjusting to watching those pounds add up. They’re stressed about too much weight and whether their bodies will ever recover from the changes.

Try to adjust your mindset even before you become pregnant. Weight gain is both normal and necessary for the baby’s healthy development. Your body will undergo many changes during pregnancy, and many women return to the pre-pregnancy weight or very near it. Focus instead on eating an extra healthy diet and engaging in moderate, healthcare provider-approved exercise.

Losing Too Much Weight

Some people have anxiety about losing too much weight, especially if they experienced this issue in a previous pregnancy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is an uncommon disorder in which extreme, persistent nausea and vomiting occur during your pregnancy. This condition may lead to dehydration and weight loss. To minimize the symptoms, experts at the Cleveland Clinic recommend eating small, frequent meals, and consuming bland foods. They also suggest waiting until nausea has improved before taking iron supplements. Using a pressure-point wrist band, vitamin B6 and/or ginger, as recommended by a healthcare provider may also help you keep your food down. How to Deal With Weight Gain Anxiety During Pregnancy

Developing an Eating Disorder

Some people feel particularly triggered by the possibility of gaining too much weight during pregnancy. These individuals may strictly limit their caloric intake and exercise to excess in an effort to thwart weight gain during pregnancy. Pregorexia – a pop-culture term that combines the words “pregnancy” and “anorexia” – can be extremely dangerous, as the expecting parent may not adequately nourish themselves or their developing baby.  

Dealing with an eating disorder during pregnancy can have drastic consequences. Symptoms may include the following:

  • Strictly limiting food intake
  • Excessive exercising to the point of exhaustion
  • Stubbornness about changing your exercise routine
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Obsessing over body size, weight, and shape
  • Eating in solitude
  • Compulsively weighing oneself multiple times a day
  • Minimal or no weight gain
  • Excessive feelings of guilt or shame about gaining weight
  • Obsessive calorie counting
  • Binging and purging

Be open and honest with your partner or friends and your healthcare provider regarding any depression, anxiety, or fears you may be feeling. Let your healthcare provider know exactly what you are and are not eating and exactly how much you’re exercising. They can monitor your and your baby’s physical health while helping you find a mental health therapist that specializes in treating disordered eating. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has provider directories you can explore based on your area.

Loss of Control

To a large degree, you are no longer in the driver’s seat when you’re pregnant. You will experience, physical, mental, emotional, and lifestyle changes beyond your control. You have to trust that nature and your body know what to do. That can be terrifying for many women, especially those who’ve struggled with eating disorders. 

Experts recommend learning as much as you can about pregnancy. By educating yourself, you will know what to expect and feel more in control. For some women, it may help to shift focus to the baby’s needs rather than their own. Try to remember that the baby needs calories to grow and develop. You’ll need them as well in order to produce enough milk once the baby is born. Plus, it’s good practice for when the baby actually arrives. You won’t have much control over how often it cries or how much sleep you’ll get either.

How to Deal With Weight Gain Anxiety During Pregnancy

Anxiety About Your Looks

Women who are recovering from or were previously diagnosed with an eating disorder may be especially prone to developing body dysmorphic disorder, a condition in which one can't stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in their appearance. They may view pregnancy as a particularly terrifying time of body changes.

Experts recommend focusing on the positive work your body is doing. Your body is changing to help your baby grow and develop. This is normal. Talk about your feelings with your partner or a trusted friend. Engaging in regular physical activity can also help clear your mind and shift your focus from your body image. Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re struggling, and find out where you can receive mental health support.

The What to Expect: Eating Well When You're Expecting, 2nd Edition Paperback is a brand new edition of America’s pregnancy food bible that covers it all through those nine months of baby-making and beyond: the latest facts on superfoods, food trends, food safety. Foods to chow down on, foods (and drinks) to limit, and those to cut out altogether. Realistic, body-positive advice and savvy strategies on how to eat well when you’re too green to come face-to-fork with broccoli. Or too bloated to eat at all. Or on the run. Or on the job. Whether you’re a red-meat eater or a vegan, a carb craver or a gluten-free girl, a fast-foodie, or a slow cooker. Whether you’re hungry for nutritional facts (which vitamins and minerals the pregnant body needs and where to find them), or just plain hungry. Plus, how to put it all together, easily and tastily, with dozens of practical tips and 170 recipes that are as delicious as they are nutritious, as easy to love as they are to make. 



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