Gaining weight during pregnancy is not only inevitable but something to celebrate; what a joyful occasion to be eating for two! Generally, a woman should gain 25-35 25-35 lbs (11-15 kg) pounds during pregnancy. If you're underweight to start with, though, you may need to gain as many as 40 lbs (18 kg).

If you're overweight, you may be able to get away with gaining a little less, but that's by no means an invitation to diet! Gaining too little weight during your pregnancy puts your baby at risk for a low birth weight, which could lead to all sorts of adverse health consequences for your baby. These include disruptions in brain development and, paradoxically, an increased risk of obesity and metabolic problems.

If your body "thinks" you are living in a world where food is scarce, it might use epigenetic mechanisms to turn on "thrifty genes" in your baby to ensure that they will have an easier time surviving this imaginary famine, which will almost inevitably lead to weight gain in today's fast food world!

Individual differences in metabolism make the exact amount of calories you should eat during pregnancy difficult to predict, but experts estimate you need somewhere between 2,200 to 3,000 calories per day. During the first trimester, women can usually eat close to their normal intakes if they started with a relatively normal weight. They should then add 350 calories per day in the second trimester and 460 calories in the final one.

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Note that 460 calories could be found in, for example, a slice or two of pizza. So it isn't an invitation to eat the whole pie, and being pregnant is definitely no excuse to abandon the principles of healthy eating entirely.

Studies have shown that eating junk food while pregnant can program your baby's brain to crave it, and gaining too much weight during pregnancy has also been shown to increase the risk of negative metabolic and health consequences for your baby.

It will also increase your risk of health problems down the road. As in many instances, the Goldilocks principle applies; gaining too much or gaining too little are both bad ideas compared to good old fashioned moderation!

While you definitely need to listen to your body and eat a lot of high-calorie food, none of that food needs to be junk. An extra 460 calories could easily come from an avocado, some fresh fatty fish, and a serving or two of nuts.

You also don't have to give up exercise during pregnancy, unless you have a specific medical reason to do so. While you should avoid any activity that is too strenuous or comes with a risk of falling, physical activities like brisk walking, cycling, swimming, and low impact aerobics should be OK. They may even give you benefits like reduced backaches and bloating, improved posture, and better sleep.

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But how long is it really going to take post-delivery to get back to your pre-pregnancy self? Between the weight of your baby and of the amniotic fluid and placenta, you may lose up to 12 of the pounds you gained during birth itself (5 kg). However, you'll still probably be carrying some pregnancy-related water weight, which you will likely shed within a week after delivery.

Your tummy also won't immediately look the way it did pre-baby, since the skin, abdominal muscles, and uterus may remain stretched and swollen for up to six weeks after giving birth. Don't think you can go straight to dieting either, especially if you are breastfeeding. Your body needs adequate nutrition to heal from the strain of birth, and eating too little could decrease your milk supply.

Experts suggest you should not eat under 1,800 calories per day for optimal milk production. On the bright side, breastfeeding burns about 500 extra calories daily, and at least some of those extra calories can come from your fat stores!

But while your metabolism may remain elevated for a short period after birth, beware that it may slow down since the hormones that were in overdrive during your pregnancy are now depleted. Between this and the stress of being a new mom, it's no wonder losing baby weight is such a struggle!

Studies show that many mothers retain up to 10 of the pounds they put on during pregnancy for good. If you're still in the healthy range, you may not need to get back down to your pre-baby size, but that doesn't mean you can't if you work hard at it!

If you are in the overweight or obese range, however, there are many health reasons that you should buckle down and shed those extra pounds. However, inadequate eating will only slow your metabolism down further. Instead, focus on eating fat-burning foods and gradually return to lower calorie diet and healthy exercise regime.

While some light exercise is ok right away, you should wait to get back to high intensity activity for 12 weeks if you had a vaginal birth and 3-4 months if you had a cesarean to avoid nasty complications like uterine prolapse. The good news is that, as a new mom, you can burn a surprising amount of calories just keeping up with your chores!

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