Many women are worried about gaining too much weight during pregnancy, and their concerns are founded. Not only is pregnancy the number one cause of weight gain in women, but the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study in 1994 that found that mothers gained 4.4 to 6.6 percent more weight over a five-year period than women who had never been mothers.

Unfortunately, these percentages have likely increased with the rate of obesity in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity in the U.S. has doubled in the past 20 years.

According to Dr. Raul Artal, professor and chairman of the department of obstetrics, gynecology and women's health at Saint Louis University Medical School, this is a common problem that can be overcome with a healthy diet and exercise plan.

"Many studies have demonstrated that, without exception, women in all weight categories retain weight after pregnancy," Artal explains. "It is more critical in overweight and obese women because that weight gain could lead to permanent comorbidities such as diabetes, hypertension and shorter life expectancy."

Losing the Baby Weight

One of the best ways to avoid too much weight gain during pregnancy is to stay active and eat healthy. When you feel ready to give into cravings, think about the nutrients the baby needs. Don't let pregnancy be an excuse to pig out on junk food. The baby doesn't need that ice cream cone or bag of chips, but it does need proper nutrition that comes from fruits, vegetables and lean proteins.

Weight gain during pregnancy is inevitable but there are things you can do to drop the postpartum pounds.

  • Breastfeed: Not only does breastfeeding ensure the best possible nutrition for your infant, it helps you burn on average 600 calories per day.
  • Exercise: It's easy to forget about exercise when you have a new baby at home, but it's important to stay active to stay healthy and fit. Can't leave the baby? Take the baby with you for a brisk walk, which burns about 300 calories per hour.
  • Control your portion sizes: The phrase "eating for two" is problematic. Even while you were pregnant, you were not eating for two; you were eating for you plus a baby. It's illogical to double the amount of pizza you eat and blame it on "eating for two." That said, it's even more important to watch your portion sizes after the baby is born. You're still burning extra calories if you're breastfeeding, but remember you're only eating for one.

Your bundle of joy is your new top priority, but you can't take care of anyone else until you take care of yourself. Don't let being a mother make you forget about being a healthy woman. Your health is the most important thing.