What Happens to Existing Belly Fat When Pregnant

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If you are a weight-conscious first-time pregnant woman, you might wonder what happens to existing belly fat when pregnant. Read on to find out the answer to your question.

Pregnancy news is exciting as well as overwhelming for many first-time expectant women. They go through an emotional roller coaster, especially during their first trimester, until they find answers to their burning pregnancy-related questions.

And if you are overweight or chubby woman pre-pregnancy, you may be worried about your weight gain or body fat as you go through your pregnancy.

close up of existing belly fat

If you are wondering what happens to existing belly fat when pregnant, here is a short answer to your question. Existing belly fat stretches around your growing fetus as you go through the second and third trimesters of your pregnancy. If you carry existing belly fat due to being overweight or obese, your pregnancy should be closely monitored by your OB/GYN as it poses a significant risk of pregnancy complications.

And when you are carrying existing belly fat, it might take a little longer for your belly bump to be noticeable in case you are worried about when to announce your pregnancy to your loved ones or on social media.

Now, let’s go into detail and find out what happens to existing body fat when pregnant, when you will start showing your pregnancy belly, and tips for controlling weight gain.

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Existing body during Pregnancy  –  Overweight or Obese?

Plus size woman in jean and white t-shirt standing against the

Existing body fat during pregnancy is concerning if you were overweight or obese pre-pregnancy. And it requires close monitoring to avoid any risk associated with your and your baby’s health.

We all carry belly fat. But if you are overweight or obese pre-pregnancy, you carry extra fat around your belly.

Being overweight or obese is based on your pre-pregnancy BMI (Body Mass Index). BMI is based on your height and weight.

  • A BMI of 24 or less is considered healthy.
  • A BMI of 25 to 29 is considered overweight. This means that your excess body weight comes from muscles, fat, water, and bone.
  • A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. This means that your excess body weight comes from body fat.

Existing belly fat or being overweight or obese can pose significant pregnancy risks such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, increased chances of c-section, and premature birth.

What happens to existing belly fat when Pregnant

During the first trimester of pregnancy, you won’t see any changes to your existing belly fat. This is because your uterus is not expanded just yet.

Body changes during the first trimesters are different among pregnant women. Some pregnant women suffer from morning sickness, and they end up losing body weight as they can’t keep food inside their body, while others feel normal and carry on their normal lifestyle

During the second trimester (12-16 weeks), your uterus will start to expand into your pelvic region for the pregnant belly to show. And your existing body fat will stretch around your growing fetus to accommodate normal growth and development. So you will also need to transform your wardrobe into maternity clothing. Here is cute maternity clothing and comfortable maternity bra for plus-size women.

If you are overweight or obese, your existing belly fat gets stretched around your growing baby, and it may take a little longer to show your pregnancy belly if you want to announce your pregnancy or host a gender reveal party.

Overweight or not, you should have a pregnant belly by the third trimester.

How much Weight should you gain during pregnancy if you have existing belly fat?

Healthy weight gain during pregnancy will depend on your BMI.

A BMI of less than 18.5 is considered underweight during pregnancy, and their expected healthy weight gain during pregnancy is around 28-40 pounds. Therefore, underweight women need to gain weight during pregnancy and postpartum.

A BMI of 18.5 -24.9 is considered normal during pregnancy, and their expected healthy weight gain during pregnancy is around 25-30 pounds.

A BMI of 25-29.9 is considered overweight during pregnancy, and their expected healthy weight gain during pregnancy is around 15-25 pounds.

A BMI of over 30 is considered obese during pregnancy, and their expected healthy weight gain during pregnancy is around 11-20 pounds.

Not to mention that gaining too much weight might cause high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. Both can put your baby in danger of miscarriage or birth defects.

Can existing belly fat affect pregnancy?

Existing belly fat due to being overweight or obese can lead to unfavorable outcomes for you and your baby.

Maternal obesity pre-pregnancy and gaining weight during pregnancy can lead to gestational diabetes and hypertension, leading to preeclampsia. It can also pose a significant risk of stillbirth or congenital abnormality for your fetus.

So, it is important to watch your weight during pregnancy if you have existing body fat or you are overweight or obese. Regular follow-up with your Ob/Gyn, eating a balanced diet, and adopting a pregnancy-safe exercise routine (under your Ob/Gyn’s watch) is essential during the 9 months of pregnancy when you are overweight or obese.

Tips for Healthy Pregnancy for women with existing belly fat

If you are overweight or obese pre-pregnancy, managing weight gain during pregnancy becomes a real challenge. But here are a few tips for managing your weight during pregnancy.

1. Eat a healthy and balanced diet

woman standing in a kitchen and eating fruits from a white bowl

You are expected to gain weight during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. So, if you manage your weight during pregnancy, it is important to adapt to a healthy and balanced diet plan.  

Eating a well-balanced meal in small portions throughout the day will keep your cravings and hunger at bay.

Include lots of fruits, vegetables, greens, legumes, and lean protein in your diet. It will keep you full and satisfied and provide all essential nutrients for your baby’s development.

2. Avoid eating Junk food or Processed food

Pregnancy cravings are the real deal, and you will end up overeating if you give in to your cravings. All processed foods or junk foods are low in calories and have added sugar which can contribute to weight gain. Therefore, avoid eating processed food. Instead, carry healthy snacks with you all the time, so you don’t have to rely on processed food to satisfy your hunger.

3. Do not skip a meal during Pregnancy

It is not a good idea to skip meals to avoid gaining weight during pregnancy. Your baby gets essential nutrients from the food you eat throughout the day.

If you are skipping meals regularly, your baby is not getting enough nutrition for their development. Some harmful effects of skipping meals during pregnancy are low birth weight, neural tube defects, malnutrition, or congenital defects.

So, eat a minimum of 3 well-balanced meals a day and snacks in between as needed. Eating small frequent meals will help your control your hunger and reduce overeating.

4. Take your Prenatal Vitamins

Prenatal vitamins are essential to consume throughout pregnancy and while breastfeeding. It provides essential nutrients to support the healthy growth of your baby. It also compensates for the nutrition that you are lacking in your food.

5. Keep yourself Hydrated

When you don’t drink enough water, your body starts retaining water which can lead to bloating and heaviness. So, keep yourself hydrated – one sip at a time.

I know some expectant mothers can not stand plain water, especially when they have morning sickness during the first trimester. I was one of them. So, I started drinking naturally flavored water one sip at a time. Have your water bottle with your all the time and sip it away all day. Aim for at least 7-8 glasses of water a day.

6. Get enough sleep

women sleeping with pregnancy body pillow _ what happens to existing belly fat when pregnant

Getting enough sleep is equally important for maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy. When you don’t get enough sleep, you produce a higher level of stress hormone – cortisol, which contributes to weight gain.

I know it gets uncomfortable to get enough sleep with a growing belly, but investing in a good organic pregnancy pillow that supports your body curvature is very important. Trust me; it makes a huge difference. Pregnancy pillows are designed to hug your curve and support your belly to get a comfortable sleep at night.

7. Avoid Stress

Pregnancy can be exciting as well as very stressful for some expectant mothers. There is so much to do in each trimester, and the stress of doing everything right for the health of your growing baby can take a toll on your mental health. 

Stress can cause the body to release a stress-inducing hormone known as cortisol, which can contribute to weight gain. So, keep your stress level at a minimum and find a way to relax. For example, go for a walk, listen to music, take a long bath, light a non-toxic candle, talk to your friends, or keep a pregnancy journal.

A good Pregnancy Planner/Journal will help you get organized during each trimester of your pregnancy and journal the pregnancy journey that you can forever cherish as a keepsake.

I highly recommend this 90-page All in one Pregnancy Planner/Journal. The All-In-One Pregnancy Planner/Journal offers plenty of space to plan, stay organized with pre-filled checklists, and space to write your most intimate feelings as an expectant mother.

8. Prenatal Exercise

Regular exercise is very important during pregnancy. Mind you, only pregnancy-safe exercise like swimming, walking, and physical therapy workouts to strengthen your pelvic floor and core muscles which will also help you prepare for your impending labor.

If you are looking into a science-based, perfect course that teaches you how to eat and exercise during pregnancy, I highly recommend  The Perfect Pregnancy Nutrition and Fitness bundle course designed by Allie Edwards (Certified Coach in Nutrition and Lifestyle during Pregnancy and Prenatal/Postnatal Fitness Trainer).

The Nutrition course is designed to guide you on eating in a way that positively affects your baby’s genetic makeup + it comes with 80 delicious recipes.

The Fitness course covers 20 specially crafted pregnancy-safe exercises to keep you on your weight goal and strengthen your pelvic floor and core muscle to get you ready for your labor. These exercises will also minimize diastasis recti after the birth of your baby.

PS – Before you start any exercise program, please speak to your Ob/Gyn.

8. Follow your doctor’s advice

If you are overweight/obese or have existing belly fat, your doctor should monitor your weight gain throughout your pregnancy. Share your concern with them about your existing belly fat. They will be able to help you with personalized advice. They know what is best for you and your growing baby. So, follow their advice.

Can you lose existing belly fat when Pregnant?

It is not recommended to try and lose existing belly fat when pregnant. Abdominal fat reduction exercise should be avoided when pregnant because it harms your growing baby. If you are overweight or have excess tummy fat, try reducing it before conceiving.

If it is too late, try managing a healthy weight during pregnancy. If you are worried about how your existing belly fat will affect your baby, share your concern with your Ob/Gyn. Excess belly fat is usually not a concern unless you are obese.

If you are worried about when you will be able to announce pregnancy, do not overstress about it, you can announce your pregnancy anytime you want.

During pregnancy, your concentration should be on supporting your baby’s healthy growth and development. Take your prenatal vitamin, eat a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly, avoid stress, and follow your doctor’s advice to have a healthy pregnancy for you and your baby.

FAQs

Can you lose body fat first trimester?

You should not try to lose body fat first trimester. But for those women who have morning sickness, it is normal for them to lose weight in the first trimester. Nausea and vomiting due to morning sickness can diminish your appetite and decrease calorie intake.

When will I look pregnant instead of fat?

Most pregnant women start showing baby bumps during the second trimester. Then, between weeks 12-16, your belly will acquire the rounded pregnancy shape, and your belly will start feeling firmer.

If you are a normal healthy woman with a BMI below 25, you will probably start showing your pregnancy belly around the beginning of the second trimester -around weeks 12-14.

If you are overweight/obese, you will take a little longer to show your pregnant belly. You will start showing your pregnant belly at around 16 weeks.

Does excess fat lead to a hanging belly?

Existing belly fat and weight gain during pregnancy can lead to a hanging belly. Hanging belly, apron belly, or pannus stomach occurs when the existing belly fat stretches to accommodate the growing fetus during pregnancy.

This results in additional fat deposits in the intra-peritoneal organ, mostly around the small and large bowel.

Is a pregnant belly hard or soft?

As your existing belly fat or belly stretches during the second trimester to accommodate the growth of your baby, your pregnant belly may feel firmer or hard. The hardness or softness of a pregnant belly will vary among expectant women.

How can you tell the difference between fat and a pregnant belly?

If you are overweight/obese, it may be hard to differentiate between belly fat and pregnancy belly. Your pregnant belly will not be noticeable until the late second trimester. You will start seeing a rounded pregnant belly during the third trimester.

What happens to existing belly fat when Pregnant: Conclusion

You are not alone if you have existing belly fat when pregnant. But it is normal to have questions regarding your existing belly fat. Your existing belly fat will stretch around your growing fetus during the second trimester of your pregnancy.

If your existing belly fat is because you are overweight or obese during prepregnancy, then you should be extra careful about gaining weight during pregnancy. Being overweight/obese comes with pregnancy complications, so it is very important to follow Ob/Gyn advice on your personalized weight gain target, maintaining a well-balanced diet, and your exercise routine.

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