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Fit Pregnancy

Information And Treatment

You’ve undoubtedly heard about “eating for two,” but you might not know that women should eat twice as well, not twice as much, during pregnancy.

Indeed, weight gain is expected during pregnancy, neuroses and Victoria Beckham aside. But most women should avoid packing on too many pounds, as excess weight increases the strain on the heart and raises the risk of complications during pregnancy. Women who are already very overweight or obese should maintain their weight, and can even lose weight under medical supervision.

The ABCs of Weight Gain

The average weight gain during pregnancy with a single baby is 25 to 30 pounds. Of this weight, about eight pounds is baby, two to three pounds is increased breast tissue, about five pounds is increased uterine tissue, about four to six pounds is the placenta and amniotic fluid, and the rest comes from fat reserves. (Women pregnant with twins typically gain 30 to 40 pounds.)

Women actually don't need to consume any extra calories during the first trimester; the fetus at 12 weeks weighs only half an ounce. During the second and third trimester, women should eat an extra 300 to 400 calories a day.

Benefit From a Fit Pregnancy

It may be daunting to gain so much weight and see your body change so dramatically. The good news is that it’s completely possible to maintain, or even start, a vigorous fitness regimen. And there are good reasons to keep up a workout routine. Exercisebenefits not just for the mom, but the baby too. Studies have shown that exercise lowers the heart rate of both the fetus and the mom, and newborns continue to have a lower heart rate for a month after birth. Lowering the heart rate also helps the expectant mother, since her heart has to work harder to pump the additional blood created during pregnancy.

Additionally, studies have shown that exercise during pregnancy can lead to babies with slightly lower, but still healthy, birth weights. Birth weights below 8 pounds and 12 ounces are correlated with a lower chance of obesity as an adult and a lower incidence of C-sections.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women get 30 minutes of exercise a day. (This is not bad advice for non-pregnant women and men too, of course!) According to the American Congress, consistent exercise during pregnancy can ease fatigue and back pain and reduce the incidence of gestational diabetes by up to 27 percent. Constipation is often an issue in pregnancy as the internal organs are compressed, but exercise can ease this uncomfortable condition too, by increasing circulation (which also helps prevent high blood pressure).

Finally, a fit pregnancy can both ease labor and shorten postpartum recovery time. A study of 300 women in England indicates that women who exercise have a markedly shorter second stage of labor than non-exercisers. The energy and stamina gained from exercise are also helpful during labor. Another study found that fit moms were 58 percent less likely to ask for pain meds.