Not only can being underweight affect your pregnancy, being underweight can cause certain health risks for any woman. However, the risks are especially important for the pregnant woman. It is important to understand the ways in which being underweight can affect your pregnancy.
The biggest risk involved for a woman who is underweight and pregnant is the risk of not getting enough nutrients. There are key nutrients, such as folic acid, Vitamins A, E, K, and B2, and minerals such as iron, copper, calcium, and zinc that a woman who is expecting must have in order to have a successful pregnancy. If, for example, if your diet is not providing enough folic acid, your baby is at an increased risk of being born with spina bifida or another neural tube defect. It is recommended that a pregnant woman get between 600 and 800 mcg of folic acid each day.
It is also important that a woman who is underweight gain enough weight during pregnancy. If you do not gain a sufficient amount of weight, you run the risk of your baby being born prematurely. Even if your baby is not born prematurely, you run the risk of your baby being born with a condition known as "small-for-gestational-age", which means that your baby was probably malnourished while he was developing in your womb. This creates a risk of several other problems that can occur later on in life.
A woman who is underweight should gain somewhere between 30 and 40 pounds during pregnancy. In contrast, a woman who is of an average weight should gain between 25 and 35 pounds, while an overweight woman should gain between 20 and 30 pounds.
If you are underweight due to an eating disorder, which could include bulimia or anorexia, you are putting your baby at risk. You should contact your health care provider immediately. Your health care provider may be able to provide you with assistance with or a referral for someone who can help you get on track nutritionally to help make sure that your pregnancy is a healthy and successful one.