Pregnancy weight gain: What's healthy?

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Pregnancy weight gain: What's healthy?

Like it or not, pregnancy weight gain is inevitable. Your baby's growth and development depend on it. Eating for two isn't a license to eat twice as much as usual, however. Use healthy lifestyle habits to control your pregnancy weight gain, support your baby's health and make it easier to shed the extra pounds after delivery.

Pregnancy weight gain guidelines

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to pregnancy weight gain. How much weight you need to gain depends on various factors, including your pre-pregnancy weight and body mass index (BMI). Your health and your baby's health also play a role. Work with your health care provider to determine what's right for you.

Consider these general guidelines for pregnancy weight gain:

Pre-pregnancy weightRecommended weight gain
Underweight (BMI less than 18.5) 28 to 40 pounds (about 13 to 18 kilograms)
Normal weight (BMI 18.5 to 24.9) 25 to 35 pounds (about 11 to 16 kilograms)
Overweight (BMI 25 to 29.9) 15 to 25 pounds (about 7 to 11 kilograms)
Obese (BMI 30 or more) 11 to 20 pounds (about 5 to 9 kilograms)

When you're carrying twins or other multiples

If you're carrying twins or other multiples, you'll likely need to gain more weight. Again, work with your health care provider to determine what's right for you.

Consider these general guidelines for pregnancy weight gain if you're carrying twins:

Pre-pregnancy weightRecommended weight gain
Normal weight (BMI 18.5 to 24.9) 37 to 54 pounds (about 17 to 25 kilograms)
Overweight (BMI 25 to 29.9) 31 to 50 pounds (about 14 to 23 kilograms)
Obese (BMI 30 or more) 25 to 42 pounds (about 11 to 19 kilograms)

When you're overweight

Being overweight before pregnancy increases the risk of various pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Although a certain amount of pregnancy weight gain is recommended for women who are overweight or obese before pregnancy, some research suggests that women who are obese can safely gain less weight than the guidelines recommend. Work with your health care provider to determine what's best in your case and to manage your weight throughout pregnancy.

In addition, remember that if you gain more than the recommended amount during pregnancy and you don't lose the weight after the baby is born, the excess pounds increase your lifelong health risks. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can also increase your baby's risk of health problems at birth and childhood obesity.

When you're underweight

If you're underweight, it's essential to gain a reasonable amount of weight while you're pregnant. Without the extra weight, your baby might be born earlier or smaller than expected.

Where does pregnancy weight gain go?

Let's say your baby weighs in at 7 or 8 pounds (about 3 to 3.6 kilograms). That accounts for some of your pregnancy weight gain. What about the rest? Here's a sample breakdown:

  • Baby: 7 to 8 pounds (about 3 to 3.6 kilograms)
  • Larger breasts: 2 pounds (about 1 kilogram)
  • Larger uterus: 2 pounds (about 1 kilogram)
  • Placenta: 1 1/2 pounds (about 0.7 kilogram)
  • Amniotic fluid: 2 pounds (about 1 kilogram)
  • Increased blood volume: 3 to 4 pounds (about 1.4 to 1.8 kilograms)
  • Increased fluid volume: 3 to 4 pounds (about 1.4 to 1.8 kilograms)
  • Fat stores: 6 to 8 pounds (about 2.7 to 3.6 kilograms)

Putting on the pounds

In the first trimester, most women don't need to gain much weight — which is good news if you're struggling with morning sickness.

If you start out at a healthy or normal weight, you need to gain only a few pounds (less than 2 kilograms) in the first few months of pregnancy. You can do this with an extra 150 to 200 calories a day, about the amount in 6 ounces (170 grams) of low-fat fruit yogurt.

Steady weight gain is more important in the second and third trimesters — especially if you start out at a healthy weight or you're underweight. This often means gaining 3 to 4 pounds (about 1.4 to 1.8 kilograms) a month until delivery. An extra 300 calories a day — half of a sandwich and a glass of skim milk — might be enough to help you meet this goal. If you began your pregnancy underweight, your health care provider might review your diet and physical activity level and suggest boosting your calories more.

The menu

It would be easy to add calories to your diet with junk food, but this won't give your baby the nutrients he or she needs. It's more important to avoid overeating and make nutrient-rich choices. Consider these suggestions:

  • Trade white bread and pasta for the whole-grain variety.
  • Choose a salad with low-fat dressing or black beans instead of a burger and fries.
  • Eat sliced fruit instead of a cookie.
  • Choose juices fortified with calcium and other nutrients.

Working with your health care provider

Your health care provider will keep a close eye on your weight. Do your part by eating a healthy diet and keeping your prenatal appointments. To keep your pregnancy weight gain on target, your health care provider might offer suggestions for boosting calories or scaling back as needed.

Last Updated: 2011-05-28
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