Eating for Appropriate Weight Gain During Pregnancy
Some women may think of pregnancy as their ticket to eat anything they want, indulging any and all cravings and leaving portion control by the wayside. Put aside the thought you are eating for 2. It may sound ideal, but that kind of thinking is not an ideal way to approach nutrition when making food choices during pregnancy. Both inadequate weight gain and excess weight gain during pregnancy pose risks to both mother and child. A balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy weight and provide the best nutrition for you and your unborn baby. The following guidelines can help you find a nutrition balance for your pregnancy.
Guidelines for Weight GainExactly how much weight gain to aim for will vary among women and depends on several factors, including the mother’s pre-pregnancy weight, height, age, and health status, as well as whether or not the pregnancy will involve twins, triplets, or more. See your doctor to determine the best weight gain goal for you. In general, the following Institute of Medicine and National Research Council guidelines are used for women with a single-baby pregnancy:
- Women beginning pregnancy at a normal weight (defined as body mass index [BMI] of 18.5-24.9) are advised to gain 25-35 pounds during pregnancy.
- Underweight women (BMI 18.4 or less) are advised to gain 28-40 pounds.
- Overweight women (BMI 25-29.9) are advised to gain 15-25 pounds.
- Obese women (BMI 30 and over) are advised to gain 11-20 pounds.
Risks of Too Little or Too Much Weight GainThe correct weight gain is one of many factors that may help ensure a healthy pregnancy. Keep in mind this is not the time to try a new, fad, or extreme diet to control weight gain. It can be harmful to you and your child.
Risks to the MotherGaining too little weight can increase the risk for:
- Delivering a low birthweight baby
- Preterm birth
- Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure called preeclampsia
- Gestational diabetes—which can lead to baby with high birthweight
- Preterm birth
- Longer labor and labor complications
- Cesarean delivery
Risks to Your BabyLow birthweight or preterm birth is associated with:
- Poor growth
- Developmental problems
- Higher risk of jaundice
- Lung and breathing problems
- Systemic infection—neonatal sepsis
- Infant mortality
- Injury during birth, such as shoulder dystocia
- Low blood sugar after birth
- Metabolic syndrome—elevated blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and excess body fat, which can lead to diabetes and heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
Maximizing Nutrition Without Maximizing CaloriesThe approach to healthful eating during pregnancy is two-fold: You want to eat for an appropriate weight gain, but you also want to make sure you and your unborn baby get all the nutrients needed. Tips to help you do this include:
- Make sure your diet is high in healthy foods with lots of nutrition. This includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
- Limit intake of foods high in sugar, saturated and trans fats (fried foods, whole dairy products, red meats).
- Avoid foods that are high in calories and little nutrition (cookies, cakes, chips, and soda).
A Note About Food SafetyA discussion of healthful eating during pregnancy would be incomplete without a mention of food safety. While it is important to eat a variety of foods and get adequate nutrients, it is also important to avoid certain foods that could pose a risk to you or to your unborn baby. Here are some recommendations to avoid potential food-borne illness:
- Do not eat or drink any raw or unpasteurized milk or milk products
- Do not eat raw or partially cooked eggs
- Avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish because of high mercury levels
- Limit white albacore tuna to 6 ounces a week or less (because of possible mercury content)
- Eat only deli, luncheon meats, or hotdogs that have been fully cooked or properly heated (if you are at high risk, you should avoid these foods completely)
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- Reviewer: Michael Woods MD
- Review Date: 11/2014
- Update Date: 11/10/2014