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Pregnancy
weight gain during pregnancy

Being pregnant is a special time, but let’s be honest, you get a lot of unsolicited advice. When someone tells you that you’ve gained too much or too little weight, this could cause you unnecessary worry. In this article, we give you the important information you need about healthy weight gain during pregnancy.

Pregnancy weight gain advice from folks has deep roots in old wives’ tales as well as legitimate advice doctors have given women throughout the years. Maybe you’re hearing the 1950’s refrain to not gain more than 15 pounds. Or you’ve heard the 1980’s advice to “eat for two.” Either way, it can be hard to know what’s healthiest for you. Let’s set the record straight about weight gain during pregnancy.

Recommended Weight Gain During Pregnancy

In general, the recommendation is for most pregnant women to gain between 25 to 30 pounds during their entire pregnancy. Your healthcare professional may recommend that you gain more or less weight than this, depending on your weight before pregnancy.

Typically, little weight gain occurs during the first trimester. However, many women gain 1 pound or more per week during their 2nd and 3rd trimesters.

Check out your body mass index (BMI) using your pre-pregnancy weight, and discuss with your healthcare provider to determine how much weight gain is healthy for you.

Here are the Institute of Medicine (IOM) guidelines:

Weight Status Before PregnancyBody Mass Index (BMI) before pregnancyRecommendations for Weight Gain
UnderweightLess than 18.528 to 40 pounds
Normal weight18.5 to 24.925 to 35 pounds
Overweight25 to 29.915 to 25 pounds
ObeseGreater than 3011 to 20 pounds

Components of Pregnancy Weight Gain

As you progress through your pregnancy, you may be wondering where your body is storing this weight. Here is the breakdown of how your body typically carries the weight gained during pregnancy:

BabyDepends on birth weight
Amniotic fluid2 pounds
Blood4 pounds
Body fluids4 pounds
Breasts2 pounds
Fat, protein and other nutrients7 pounds
Placenta1.5 pounds
Uterus2 pounds

healthy pregnancy and beyond

Health Risks From Gaining Too Much Or Too Little Weight

Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can lead to health risks such as high blood pressure, cesarean delivery, and delivering a baby that is too large. A large baby can lead to injuries during delivery, such as a bone fracture for the baby, and the mom is at increased risk for excessive bleeding at birth and postpartum hemorrhage.

Excess weight gain may also increase your risk for having a child with autism and is linked to having an overweight child at age 3 and obesity later in life.

If you were a regular dieter before pregnancy, be aware that normal weight, overweight and obese women with a history of dieting may gain more than the recommended amount during pregnancy, and those who are underweight may gain below the recommendations.

Sometimes “morning sickness” can make it difficult for pregnant women to eat, especially during the first trimester. Gaining too little weight during pregnancy can also lead to problems such as insufficient nutrients for a growing baby, preterm birth and low birth weight.

Unfortunately, although healthcare professionals are aware of these risks, few guidelines exist for helping women manage weight gain during pregnancy.

Will Prenatal Vitamins Make Me Gain Weight?

No matter what you’ve heard, taking a prenatal supplement does not make you gain weight. This is a persistent myth that may make women wary about taking one. It’s critical to take a high-quality prenatal supplement to supply you with the essential nutrients needed during pregnancy.

Strategies To Stay On Target For Weight Gain

There are a number of strategies you can use to make sure you have appropriate weight gain during pregnancy. Talk to your healthcare professional about proper weight gain during pregnancy. If you are struggling, see a registered dietitian nutritionist for a plan that is tailored to your needs.

  • Unless your healthcare professional tells you differently, you do not require any extra calories during the first trimester. During the second trimester, you require an extra 340 calories per day. While during the third trimester you require an extra 450 calories per day.
  • Speak to your healthcare professional to find out how much weight you should gain during your pregnancy. If they do not talk to you about weight gain, then you should ask.
  • Eat a healthful diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains (whole grain bread, brown rice, oats, quinoa). Also incorporate plenty of lean proteins (milk, beans, chicken, turkey, fish and lean pork and beef). And don’t forget to add healthful fats (olive oil, nuts, avocados). Cut down on foods like soda, sweets, and fried snacks, and drink plenty of water.
  • Stay active. Women who were not regular exercisers prior to pregnancy can start slowly with 15 minutes of light-intensity exercise three times per week and work up to 30 minutes daily. Walking and swimming are generally safe and effective during pregnancy. If you were a regular exerciser prior to pregnancy you may be able to continue with your regular routine, but speak to your healthcare professional to be sure.
  • Seek help if you need it. A small study found that pregnant women who participated in counseling about healthy food choices and physical activity with strategies for self-monitoring were successful in not exceeding weight gain recommendations. If you’re struggling with gaining your recommended amount of weight, you may benefit from nutritional counseling by a registered dietitian nutritionist.

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