Can you lose belly fat while pregnant?

Rather than trying to lose weight and belly fat during pregnancy, you should focus on eating healthy and maintaining your weight.

pregnant woman carrying a glass of green tea smoothie for burning belly fat

Key takeaways:

  • Pregnant people should not think of losing weight or belly fat during pregnancy. It is dangerous to try losing belly fat while pregnant, as this can harm the fetus.
  • Also, dieting to lose weight or belly fat during pregnancy is unsafe both for the pregnant person and their unborn baby.
  • For safety reasons, it is best for pregnant people to focus on eating healthily, engaging in light exercises, pelvic floor exercises, and getting quality sleep during pregnancy.

While the thought of weight gain during pregnancy and after childbirth may not sound pleasant to many people, losing weight during pregnancy is not considered safe. Your main goal during pregnancy should be to maintain a healthy weight that is good for you and your baby.

You have all the time after pregnancy to lose weight and get back in shape. As a result, it is best if you focus on eating healthy meals and exercising appropriately, as recommended by your doctor.

In this article, we will discuss weight maintenance during pregnancy in depth. We'll also answer your questions about whether it's safe to lose weight or belly fat while you're pregnant.

Can you lose belly fat while pregnant?

No, you should not diet, or try to lose weight or belly fat during pregnancy. It would be best if you didn't consider losing belly fat while pregnant. Losing belly fat while pregnant means losing weight, and weight loss during pregnancy is unsafe for you or your baby.

However, people who are overweight or obese are at higher risk of complications like gestational hypertension and preeclampsia. Still, if you are to lose weight, it should be with the approval of your gynecologist. They should also closely monitor you. This is why it is often ideal for people who are overweight to lose some weight before pregnancy.

If you had prominent belly fat before getting pregnant, it might take a while before your baby bumps become visible. Sometimes, it might not become bigger, but the shape of your stomach may change and become rounder, which is not a problem.

If your belly fat is not a result of other health conditions, you should not worry about losing weight once pregnant. You can try to keep your weight at a healthy level and not gain too much weight while you're pregnant. After giving birth, you can work out and do other things that can help you lose belly fat.

In all, if you are worried about your weight during pregnancy, you can speak to your healthcare provider.

Is it safe to diet while pregnant?

Dieting to lose weight while pregnant is not safe for either the mother or the baby.

When you are pregnant, you will get hungry a lot, so you might add a few kilograms of weight. This can make some pregnant people conscious of their weight, and some go the extra mile to lose weight. But losing weight during pregnancy is not safe for you because, during that time, the body records so many changes in line with the development of the fetus.

In fact, if you start dieting when you are pregnant, there are chances that you might become malnourished. And because the food you eat supports your baby's growth, dieting will make you miss out on some important nutrients that your baby needs, like iron, folic acid, iodine, minerals, and vitamins. The consequence of this is that you and your baby might face complications.

Don't panic if you experience frequent hunger during pregnancy. This is typically normal because pregnancy increases your body's need for energy and nutrients. As your baby feeds on your body's nutrients, chances are that your blood sugar levels may drop in between meals.

Rather than opting for a weight loss diet, eat what's necessary for your body so that you will get all the nutrients required for healthy living.

What happens if you lose weight during pregnancy

While being overweight during pregnancy increases the risk of complications, losing weight during pregnancy can also put you at risk of preterm birth. Losing weight during pregnancy can also increase the risk of having a baby that is too small, termed "small for gestational age" (SGA).

It is not safe to consciously try to lose weight during pregnancy, especially during the second and third trimesters. During the first trimester, your weight may sometimes change because of pregnancy symptoms and other things.

However, losing weight after the first trimester is dangerous because it can cause complications for the baby, such as small for gestational age infants and spontaneous preterm birth. All these can lead to neonatal death and other complications.

If you gained weight before getting pregnant, your main goal should be to not gain any more. Anything about weight loss should ideally come after childbirth.

How to lose or maintain healthy weight during pregnancy

The following are things you can do to avoid gaining extra weight during pregnancy:

Be Mindful of your diet

Because of the popular saying that "when you are pregnant, you are eating for two people," some people are tempted to eat excessively during pregnancy. But this saying is only a myth, as the number of calories and nutrients you need during pregnancy doesn't exactly double.

If you go with the mindset that you need to eat for two, it can make you put on excess weight. So, the first step to maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy is to avoid eating more than your body needs.

Take care not to eat or drink anything touted as a detoxifying agent. Some people blend a mixture of herbal concoctions into teas and smoothies with the belief that it helps detoxify the digestive system and burn belly fat. This may cause more harm than good to a pregnant person and the unborn baby.

Limit the intake of calorie-dense foods and include enough protein in your meals. Eating balanced meals that include all macro- and micronutrients is beneficial. However, stick with whole carbs and healthy fats. Keep in mind that saturated and trans fats are not healthy food options. Some sources of healthy fats include fatty fish, walnuts, olive oil, flax seeds, avocadoes, and chia seeds.

You should also eat foods containing vitamins and minerals like iron, folate, vitamin D, calcium, and iodine.

  • Iron can be found in eggs, broccoli, chicken, lentils, and spinach.
  • Folate can be found in chia seeds, citrus fruits, spinach, flax seeds, legumes, and citrus fruits.
  • Calcium can be found in milk, yoghurt, spinach, chickpeas, and broccoli.

We are exposed to vitamin D through sunlight, but you can also get it from dairy products and cereals.

Engage in exercises

Studies showed that exercise helps to maintain pregnancy and keep you healthy. However, it is best for pregnant people to stick with light and short-duration exercises. This is why it is best to speak with your doctor before starting any exercise routine to help determine the best type of exercise for you.

Here are some types of exercise that pregnant women can engage in to maintain a healthy shape.

  • Walking

This is the easiest form of exercise that you should do during pregnancy. It keeps you fit and helps you burn excess calories. You should aim to walk for 20 to 30 minutes each day. Not only will you keep fit, but it will also improve your blood circulation.

  • Yoga

Prenatal yoga is light and may be beneficial to pregnant people. Yoga helps stretch the musculoskeletal system and relax the body. It will be best, however, to practice your yoga under the supervision of your instructor to ensure you are doing the correct forms and poses.

Other benefits of prenatal yoga include building a strong support system, helping to improve balance, and improving mood and blood circulation.

  • Pelvic floor exercise

Most people prefer to do pelvic floor exercises in their postpartum period. However, it is also safe during pregnancy. Pelvic floor exercises can aid in the strengthening of your pelvic muscles. Your pelvic muscles provide support to your bladder, uterus, and rectum.

Always stay hydrated

One way to ensure you don't gain too much weight during pregnancy is to drink enough water.

Instead of drinking sugary drinks and beverages, replace them with plenty of water. It won't only help maintain your weight but also keep you healthy. Constantly check the color of your urine. When the color of your urine becomes dark yellow, it may be an indication that you are dehydrated.

Always get a good sleep

As you approach your late pregnancy phase, you may find sleeping harder. Research has shown that lack of sleep causes increased weight gain. This is more reason why you should make efforts to develop and maintain a healthy sleeping pattern.

Can belly fat affect pregnancy?

Yes, having excess weight or belly fat can affect pregnancy. It is associated with greater health risks such as insulin resistance, diabetes, and sleep disturbances. A 2021 population-based cross-sectional study indicated that having belly fat is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular conditions like hypertension and hypercholesterolemia.

Belly fat is one of the first signs of weight gain, which means most people with belly fat tend to be overweight or obese too. Studies have shown that increased weight during pregnancy increases the risk of pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and intrauterine death.

In all, focus on eating healthy, going for regular antenatal checkups, and doing light exercises to keep fit.

What happens to existing belly fat while pregnant?

If you have existing belly fat when pregnant, it does not disappear with pregnancy. But, it may take longer for your baby bump to become noticeable.

You may not experience much additional increase in your belly size, but you will most likely notice a change in the appearance of your belly. And over time, your abdominal fat will evenly stretch out over your baby, giving it a roundish appearance.

Can you have a flat belly when pregnant?

It is possible to have a flat or near-flat belly when pregnant, as pregnancy signs and symptoms vary from person to person. Different factors can affect the shape and size of your belly during pregnancy, including:

  • Your fitness level
  • The strength of your chest and abdominal core muscles
  • Whether it's your first pregnancy or you have been pregnant before (with the former your abdominal wall has lesser laxity and your baby bumps may not show up much or sooner)
  • Your height

Wrap up

Being overweight during pregnancy is not ideal. However, there are two things you can do to help prevent this: try to lose some weight before pregnancy or follow some healthy lifestyle tips (discussed in this article) to help you maintain your weight, so you don't gain too much during pregnancy.

To be safe, avoid extreme dieting channeled towards weight loss or unapproved and unsupervised workouts during pregnancy. Expect fluctuations in weight during pregnancy. You may also add a little weight. It is not a cause for alarm unless your gynecologist says otherwise.

In this feature story, a mother of three shares her experience with pregnancy and medical gaslighting.