Pregnancy weight gain – How much is healthy and safe?

The amount of weight you gain during pregnancy is significant for the health of your pregnancy period and for the long-term health of you and your baby.  Whether you like it or not, eating for two is not a license to eat twice as much as usual. Use healthy lifestyle habits to cope with weight gain during pregnancy, keep your baby healthy, and make it easier to get rid of those extra pounds after childbirth. Learn about pregnancy weight gain guidelines that give you average numbers to keep in mind and steps you can take in order to attain your pregnancy weight gain goal.

General weight gain guidelines

There is no universal approach to dealing with weight gain during pregnancy. The right weight gain for you depends on a multiple factors, including your pre-pregnancy weight and body mass index (BMI). Your own condition and your baby’s health also play a big part. Consult your health care provider to work out what works for you.

These are weight gain recommendations for women who are pregnant with one child:

Pre-pregnancy weightRecommended weight gain
Source: Institute of Medicine and National Research Council
Underweight (BMI under 18.5)28 to 40 lbs. (about 13 to 18 kg)
Normal weight (BMI 18.5 to 24.9)25 to 35 lbs. (about 11 to 16 kg)
Overweight (BMI 25 to 29.9)15 to 25 lbs. (about 7 to 11 kg)
Obesity (BMI 30 or more)11 to 20 lbs. (about 5 to 9 kg)

If you are carrying twins or other multiples, you will probably have to put on more weight. Again, work with your health care provider to determine what is more suitable for you.

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Take into consideration these general recommendations for gaining weight during pregnancy if you are carrying twins:

Pre-pregnancy weightRecommended weight gain
Source: Institute of Medicine and National Research Council
Normal weight (BMI 18.5 to 24.9)37 to 54 lbs. (about 17 to 25 kg)
Overweight (BMI 25 to 29.9)31 to 50 lbs. (about 14 to 23 kg)
Obesity (BMI 30 or more)25 to 42 lbs. (about 11 to 19 kg)

Recent studies have shown that only around one-third (32%) of women achieved the recommended weight figures during pregnancy, while most women put on weight that is beyond the guidelines (around one-fifth too little, around 50% too much).

Importance of staying within the recommended weight ranges

Gaining below the the recommended weight level during pregnancy is correlated with having a baby that is too small. For some babies who are born too small it might difficult to start breastfeeding and they are more likely to have a risk of disease as well as developmental delays (inability to meet general physical criteria for their age).

If you are underweight

If you are considered underweight prior to pregnancy, it is important to put on a reasonable amount of weight during this period. Without this extra weight, your baby might be born smaller than expected.

If you are overweight

Being overweight before pregnancy make it more likely to be at the risk of various pregnancy complications, such as  gestational diabetes or blood pressure disorders, as well as having to have a C-section. Consult your health care provider to determine what works for you and to monitor your weight throughout whole period of pregnancy.

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If you gain above the recommended levels

Putting on too much weight during pregnancy might be the reason for your baby to experience health problems, such as having a much larger-than-average baby (fetal macrosomia). You might also be at higher risk for pregnancy-related hypertension, gestational diabetes, prolonged labor, and having to undergo a C-section or too early delivery . There are also some extra risks to be considered such as postpartum weight loss and higher likelihood of postpartum blood clots.

Where Does the Extra Weight Go?

Your baby’s weight may be 7 to 8 pounds (about 3 to 3.6 kilograms). This explains some of the weight gain during pregnancy. What about the rest of the kilos? Here’s the detailed look:

  • Large breasts: 1 to 3 pounds (about 0.5 to 1.4 pounds).
  • Large uterus: 2 pounds (about 0.9 pounds)
  • Placenta: 1 1/2 pounds (about 0.7 kilograms)
  • Amniotic fluid: 2 pounds (about 0.9 kilograms)
  • Increased blood volume: 3 to 4 pounds (about 1.4 to 1.8 kilograms)
  • Increased fluid volume: 2 to 3 pounds (about 0.9 to 1.4 pounds)
  • Fat reserves: 6 to 8 pounds (about 2.7 to 3.6 pounds)

Tips to meet pregnancy weight gain guidelines

Your health care provider will keep a close eye on your weight. A nutritionist can also help. Do your part by eating healthy foods and following a prenatal regimen. To keep your pregnancy weight gain on track, your health care provider may suggest that you increase your caloric intake or reduce it if necessary.

Here are some useful tips to follow:

  • Work with your doctor to meet your weight gain goals at the beginning and regularly throughout your pregnancy.
  • Monitor your weight gain at the beginning of your pregnancy and regularly throughout your pregnancy and compare it to the recommended ranges of healthy weight gain.
  • Eat a balanced diet high in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, and lean proteins. Most foods are safe to eat during pregnancy, although you are advised to be cautious or try to avoid certain foods.
  • Eat five to six small meals every day.
  • Limit added sugars and solid fats in foods such as soft drinks, desserts, fried foods, whole milk, and fatty meats.
  • Know your calorie needs. Generally, the first trimester (or first three months) does not require extra calories. Women usually need about 340 extra calories per day in the second trimester (during the second three months) and about 450 extra calories per day in the third (final) trimester.
  • Spread peanut butter on toast, crackers, apples, bananas, or celery. One tablespoon of creamy peanut butter gives you about 100 calories and 7 grams of protein.
  • Keep up to at least two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as walking or even brisk walking) a week. 150 (2.5 hours) minutes may seem excessive and too energy-consuming, but in fact, you can achieve this goal by breaking down your physical activity into 10 minutes per session. Physical activity is healthy and safe for most pregnant women. Again, consult your speialist to be sure you don’t have any limitations in doing physial exercise.

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