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Why You May Be Losing Weight During Pregnancy

Are you losing weight during pregnancy—and a little freaked out about it? Here's what might be going on.

It certainly seems strange to lose weight when you’re growing a baby, but it’s probably nothing to fret about if you’re in your first trimester. Read on to learn why you might be a few pounds lighter, when to see the doctor and how to make sure you and baby are getting the nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy.

Why Am I Losing Weight During Pregnancy?

Weight loss in early pregnancy
Morning sickness and the loss of appetite that often goes with it is the most common reason why women shed a few pounds in the first trimester. "Nausea decreases appetite and vomiting impacts absorption of valuable calories and nutrients," says Pooja Shah, MD, regional medical director for Banner Medical Group AZ East and a practicing ob-gyn.

Other possible reasons? Women who are clinically overweight or obese may lose weight in early pregnancy due to stored fat being used to power pregnancy growth. Also, a lot of moms-to-be make a point of eating healthier foods and exercising daily when they become pregnant, so the healthier lifestyle could lead to some initial weight loss.

Let's be clear, though—pregnancy is not the time to start or continue a weight loss diet and aggressive exercise regimen. "Restriction of calories and nutrients can be harmful to both mom and baby," Shah says. "What is recommended is to follow a healthy, well balanced diet and to exercise on a daily basis."

Losing a few pounds at the beginning of your pregnancy is actually pretty common, and usually nothing to worry about. But excessive weight loss can be a sign of something more serious, such as hyperemesis or thyroid dysfunction. If you continue to lose weight or simply can’t keep anything down, talk to your OB. "You should feel comfortable having an open conversation with your ob-gyn about weight gain goals in pregnancy, visit-to-visit weight changes and any worrisome weight gain or loss," Shah says. And remember, most women only gain between three and five pounds in the first trimester (and a total of 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy).

Weight loss later in pregnancy
Lost a few pounds in the first trimester? Probably not a big deal. But weight loss later in pregnancy can be more concerning. According to Shah, it could be due to something as simple (and harmless) as fluctuations in day-to-day water retention, or it could be related to poor baby growth, low amniotic fluid, pregnancy-induced hypertension or preeclampsia. Talk to your OB to figure out why you're losing weight and how to treat it.

What To Do For Weight Loss During Pregnancy

Your doctor will be able to recommend the best treatment based on the reason for your weight loss. But there are some ways you can (and should) make sure you and baby are getting the nutrients you need: 

Take your daily prenatal vitamins. You might want to try one with a lower dose of iron, since the mineral can actually make nausea worse.

Try to eat whenever you can stand it. Small, frequent meals are the name of the game. An empty stomach can actually trigger nausea, as can low blood sugar, so eat before you’re hungry and always keep snacks nearby—go for lean proteins, fruits, veggies and healthy fats, Shah says.

Drink at least two to three liters of water daily. It's important to stay hydrated when pregnant.

Eat some ginger. Ginger ale, ginger candies, ginger tea—this alternative remedy has a long history of making tummies feel better.

Slip on an acupressure wristband. Found at most drugstores, these bands are meant to ward off motion sickness but have helped many an expectant mom fight the queasies.

Get extra sleep. Catching up on rest and cutting down on stress will also work wonders for your appetite.

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