How to Get the Nutrition You need during Pregnancy when You’re Underweight

Bacon wrapped top sirloin?
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kyle Kruchok

When we think about pregnancy and weight, we usually think more about the woman who gains too much weight (or at least too much weight for her own preferences). The fact of the matter is that a healthy pregnancy will cause you to put on somewhere between 25 and 35 pounds. Even if you were overweight before pregnancy, you should be gaining at least 20 pounds or so.

There are some of us, though, that struggle the other direction. Whether it’s from a history of eating disorders or just a high metabolism and low appetite, there are women who struggle with being underweight. For those women, pregnancy brings some risks. Not getting enough nutrition during pregnancy can negatively impact your baby’s growth, and being very underweight increases the risks of pre-term birth or a low birthweight baby.

Here are some things you should be doing to make sure your nutritional needs are being met during pregnancy if you’re underweight:

  • Take your supplements. That prenatal vitamin is important for most women, but it’s especially important for you. Make sure you get the recommended amount of both Folic Acid and Iron, especially.
  • Focus on whole foods. Foods that haven’t been processed offer more nutrition, calorie for calorie, than foods that have. Focus on whole foods whenever possible.
  • Talk to a dietician. If you’re not positive about what kinds of foods you should be eating, talk to a dietician. Your doctor can usually recommend one if you’re having trouble locating one. The dietician will help you choose foods that give you and your baby what you need.
  • Don’t be afraid to gain weight. A woman who is underweight before pregnancy should usually gain between 30 and 40 pounds during pregnancy. For some women, that may be more than a third of your bodyweight. Don’t be afraid of it; it’s what your baby needs.
  • Track your eating habits. A simple food journal is often enough to keep you on track nutritionally, and it can also help you keep accountable to others to make sure you get what you need.

So, what about you? Have you ever struggled with being underweight during pregnancy?

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