Will I Look Pregnant If I'm Fat?

What to Expect If You're Overweight and Expecting

Pregnant Women is waiting for the c-section in her room.
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If you already have a belly when you become pregnant, you may wonder if you will "pop" at some point in the same way that more slender expectant women do—in other words, reach a point when you'll suddenly look pregnant rather than overweight. Whether this is a real concern of yours—because you want it to be clear you're pregnant, for example—or you're simply curious, the answer is: hard to say.

The ways in which women carry their pregnancies are as varied as the babies they have on board. In other words, everyone is different and unless you've been pregnant before only time will tell how your body will change as your condition progresses. One thing that is for sure is that you're not alone: Women of every size often wonder when their pregnancy will show. What's more, there are normal-weight women who wind up looking more as if they've put on extra pounds than that they're pregnant.

While the appearance of a baby bump certainly is a legitimate thing to wonder about, if you have a plus-size pregnancy you'll want to keep some other issues in mind as well, so that you and your baby-to-be can enjoy your nine-month journey together safely and healthfully.

Your Changing Shape During Pregnancy

Regardless of how your belly is shaped when you become pregnant, as your baby grows your body definitely will undergo changes. It's in the second trimester of pregnancy that the uterus first begins to expand beyond the pelvis, and so most women begin to look obviously pregnant somewhere between weeks 12 and 16. By the middle of the second trimester, maternity clothes may be in order to accommodate a morphing middle.

If you have a prominent layer of fat blanketing your abdominal area, it may take longer for your baby bump to become obvious or you may experience a different kind of change in the appearance of your belly. Maybe it won't become bigger, but the shape may shift a bit—you might look rounder, for example.

The question really comes to how to let others know that you're pregnant if you're ready to for the big reveal before you're really showing. Dressing the part is one way to go: Start wearing maternity clothes. Choose styles that really emphasize your pregnant belly to highlight your condition.

Weight Gain Guidelines

What you should not do is attempt to control the appearance of your baby bump by attempting to gain more or less weight than your doctor or midwife advises. The guidelines for weight gain during pregnancy are different for women who are overweight or obese than for those who are of normal weight, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

To be classified as overweight, your body mass index (BMI) should be between 25 and 29.9 before pregnancy and you should gain no more than 15 to 25 pounds. To be considered obese, your pre-pregnancy BMI should be 30 or greater and you should gain 11 to 20 pounds. If you're carrying twins, you can double those numbers.

If you aren't yet pregnant, it can certainly be advantageous to lose weight before you try to conceive if you're overweight or obese, as both conditions bring unique potential problems to pregnancy, including an increased risk of pregnancy loss, birth defects, a larger-than-normal baby, and difficulty monitoring a fetal development with ultrasound.

Pregnancy is a great time to initiate healthy habits that you can carry on beyond the birth of your baby to help you lose the baby weight (and perhaps even more). With the guidance of your caregiver, focus on eating a balanced diet high in nutrient-dense whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat dairy.

At the same time, rid your diet of added sugars, solid fats, and low-nutrition foods that don't benefit you or your baby. And count your calories: You won't need any extra calories in the first trimester and only 340 more calories per day than usual in the second trimester and 450 extra calories in the third trimester.

This also is a good time to begin a fitness program if you don't already exercise. Talk to your doctor first, of course, to get guidance about how to start out and how to progress safely. Walking often is recommended for pregnant women of any size. And besides, you'll need to be up to pushing a stroller before you know it, so you might as well start building up the strength and stamina now.

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Article Sources
  • Weight Gain During Pregnancy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pregnancy-weight-gain.htm.
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obesity and Pregnancy. Apr 2016. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Obesity-and-Pregnancy