Will People Know I'm Pregnant When Being Overweight?

Cheerful overweight couple expressing romance in nature; pregnant obesity

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If you already have a belly when you become pregnant, you may wonder if you will "pop" 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: it's hard to say. 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.

Body Shape Changes During Pregnancy

Regardless of how your belly is shaped when you become pregnant, as your baby grows your body will definitely undergo changes.

The uterus begins to expand beyond the pelvis during the second trimester of pregnancy. This means that 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 comes down to how to announce your pregnancy if you're not yet showing. Dressing the part is one way to go: Start wearing maternity clothes. Choose styles that really emphasize your pregnant belly.

Weight Gain Guidelines

What you should not do is attempt to control the appearance of your baby bump by attempting to gain or less more weight than your doctor or midwife advises.

The guidelines for how much gain you should gain during pregnancy are based on your weight before pregnancy, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

If you are considered overweight, doctors advise limiting weight gain to no more than 15 to 25 pounds. If you are considered obese, doctors advise limiting weight gain to between 11 pounds and 20 pounds. If you're carrying twins, you can double those numbers.

If you're obese, it can be a good idea to try to lose weight before you try to conceive. During pregnancy, obesity increases the risk of miscarriage, birth defects, a larger-than-normal baby, and difficulty monitoring fetal development with ultrasound.

How to Develop Healthy Habits

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).

  • Eating a balanced diet. 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, saturated fats, and low-nutrition foods that don't benefit you or your baby.
  • Count your calories. You don't need any extra calories in the first trimester, but you do need 340 more calories per day in the second trimester and 450 extra calories in the third trimester.
  • Start exercising. Talk to your doctor first to get guidance about how to start an exercise program 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.
1 Source
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  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obesity and Pregnancy. Apr 2016.

Additional Reading
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obesity and Pregnancy. Apr 2016. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Obesity-and-Pregnancy

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.