Weight Gain During Pregnancy
Pregnant women need a proper diet and weight for optimal health and for the nourishment of a growing baby. If a woman does not gain enough weight during pregnancy, her baby is at risk of having a low birth-weight and health problems. A woman who gains too much weight during pregnancy risks having a large baby and complications during pregnancy and childbirth. She could also have great difficulty losing the weight after birth.
How Much Weight Should I Gain?
The amount of weight you should gain during pregnancy depends upon several factors including your prepregnancy weight and your age. If you are of average weight for your height, you are encouraged to gain between 25-35 pounds. If you are underweight or have a low body mass index (BMI), you will need to gain a bit more. If you are overweight, you will need to gain a little less weight than a pregnant woman with average weight.
Women who are pregnant with twins or multiples will usually gain slightly more weight than average.
A slow and steady weight gain over the nine month period is best, but keep in mind that women gain weight at different rates. You should never try to lose weight during pregnancy, even if you are overweight. The burning of fat stores during pregnancy could cause your body to release substances that could harm your baby. Your doctor will suggest a weight range than best suits you.
The following chart is an estimate of how much weight you should gain per trimester based on your normal weight.
Approximate Pregnancy Weight Gain in Pounds
|Pregnancy Status||1st Trimester
|2nd and 3rd Trimester
|Total Weight Gain|
|Underweight||1-4 lbs.||1-1.3 lbs/week||28-40 lbs.|
|Normal Weight||1-4 lbs.||0.8-1 lbs/week||25-35 lbs.|
|Overweight||1-4 lbs.||0.5-0.7 lbs/week||15-25 lbs.|
|Obese||1-4 lbs.||0.4-0.6 lbs./week||11-20 lbs.|
Mothers carrying multiples usually gain 33-48 lbs.
Oh No! Do I Have to Get Fat?
Many women fear the inevitable weight gain of pregnancy, even though it is normal and healthy. The important thing to keep in mind is that, for the majority of women, most of the weight gained is not fat. The following table illustrates how an average weight gain is distributed in pregnancy:
Approximate Distribution of Weight Gain in Average Pregnancy
|Blood volume increase in mother||3-4 lbs|
|Amniotic fluid||2 lbs|
|Fluids in mother's tissues||3-4 lbs|
|Breast tissue increase||1-3 lbs|
|Increased fat stores in mother||6-8 lbs|
|Total Average||26-32 lbs|
How Should I Gain Weight?
You should add an average of 200 calories more per day to your diet. These calories, as well as most of the calories in your diet, should not come from junk food that is full of fat and sugar. Junk foods have few nutrients and are considered "empty calories." Nutritious snack ideas include fresh fruit, crackers and cheese, peanut butter, and whole grain breads and cereals. You may notice that you gain weight slowly during the first trimester. This is quite normal. During the second and third trimester, you will gain the bulk of your weight.
MyPyramid is an interactive website that allows you to get a personalized food plan, helping you to choose from a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, dairy foods, and healthful fats.
What Will Happen to My Weight After Birth?
Your postpartum weight will, in part, be affected by how much weight you gained during pregnancy. If you gain too much weight during pregnancy or develop poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle, you may have more difficulty losing the weight after the baby is born. The following factors help women to lose weight more quickly after giving birth:
- Eating a healthful, well-balanced diet that is low in fat, high in fiber, and rich in nutrients
- Exercising four or more times a week for at least 30 minutes (regular aerobic exercises that involve the large muscles and elevate the heart rate are best for burning calories)
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you are growing a baby, and therefore must have extra calories and weight during pregnancy. Choose your calories wisely by eating nutritious foods.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
MyPyramid for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Womens Health Canada
MyPyramid for Pregnancy and Breastfeeding website. Available at: http://www.mypyramid.gov/mypyramidmoms/index.html. Accessed November 16, 2010.
Pregnancy weight gain: What's healthy? Mayo Clinic.com website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pregnancy-weight-gain/PR00111. Updated May 2009. Accessed November 16, 2010.
Weight gain in pregnancy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated September 2010. Accessed November 16, 2010.
Last reviewed November 2010 by Brian Randall, MD
Last updated Updated: 11/16/2010
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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