How much weight should I gain during my pregnancy?
It depends on how much you weighed before you conceived and how appropriate that weight is for your height. The relationship between your height and weight is expressed in a number called a “body mass index,” or BMI.
The guidelines for pregnancy weight gain are issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), most recently in May 2009. Here are the most current recommendations:
- If your pre-pregnancy weight was in the healthy range for your height (a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9), you should gain between 25 and 35 pounds, gaining 1 to 5 pounds in the first trimester and about 1 pound per week for the rest of your pregnancy for the optimal growth of your baby.
- If you were underweight for your height at conception (a BMI below 18.5), you should gain 28 to 40 pounds.
- If you were overweight for your height (a BMI of 25 to 29.9), you should gain 15 to 25 pounds. If you were obese (a BMI of 30 or higher), you should gain between 11 and 20 pounds.
- If you’re having twins, you should gain 37 to 54 pounds if you started at a healthy weight, 31 to 50 pounds if you were overweight, and 25 to 42 pounds if you were obese.
Use our pregnancy weight gain estimator to find out how much you should gain (based on your height and pre-pregnancy weight) and to see how the pounds are distributed.
How can I stay within the recommended amount?
Eat a healthy diet while you’re pregnant and ask your doctor or midwife to help you set up an exercise program that’s right for you. Eating for two doesn’t mean eating twice as much as you usually do. In fact, you don’t need any extra calories in your first trimester. According to the IOM, you need only 340 extra calories a day in your second trimester, and 450 extra calories daily in your third trimester.
What happens if I gain more or less than the recommended amount?
The babies of women who gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy may be too large at birth, which can cause labor complications for both mom and baby. For example, studies show that women who gain too much during pregnancy are at a higher risk for having a cesarean delivery or a premature birth. They also tend to retain too much weight after pregnancy and have a higher weight in subsequent pregnancies.
The risks for women who gain too much during pregnancy, though, are less than the risks for women who already weigh too much when they conceive. Women who start pregnancy overweight are at higher risk for complications including gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
In addition, women who are overweight or obese before pregnancy tend to have trouble starting and continuing breastfeeding. Experts believe reasons for this may include poor milk production and difficulty positioning the baby for nursing. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy may make this problem worse.
What’s more, children whose mothers who start pregnancy overweight are more likely to become overweight or obese themselves.
On the other hand, women who start pregnancy underweight or who don’t gain enough during pregnancy are at higher risk of delivering a preterm infant or a low-birth-weight baby (under 5.5 pounds). Preterm birth can cause health problems or even be fatal for the baby if it happens too early.
Do most women gain the recommended amount?
According to Kathleen Rasmussen, who headed up the 2009 IOM report, the most current data suggest that at least half of women are gaining more or less than the new guidelines. Most underweight women will gain within the guidelines but some women of healthy weight may exceed the advised amounts and a majority of overweight or obese women will likely gain too much.
The new guidelines urge prenatal caregivers to counsel women about diet and exercise more effectively so that expectant mothers have a better chance of staying within the recommended weight limits.
How can I deal with my anxiety about how my body is changing?
If you’ve struggled with controlling your weight in the past, or even if you’ve never dieted in your life, you may have a hard time accepting that it’s okay to gain weight now. It’s normal to feel anxious as the numbers on the scale edge up. Try to keep in mind, however, that some weight gain is important for a healthy pregnancy and that those extra pounds will eventually come off after you’ve had the baby.
If weight gain is making you feel blue, you’re not alone. Find out how other moms-to-be are coping with putting on the pregnancy pounds.
How will I get rid of all those extra pounds later?
Much of the weight you’ve been accumulating will be gone pretty soon after you give birth. Mothers usually lose half of their pregnancy weight gain in the first six weeks after delivery. The baby accounts for about 7.5 pounds (more or less), and the amniotic fluid, placenta, and extra body fluids and blood in your body add up to another 8 to 12 pounds.
For the rest, remember that it took nine months to put on the weight, and it can take just as long or longer for it to come off. A healthy diet combined with regular exercise is the best way to shed the pounds — and keep them off.
Don’t start cutting back on calories right away, though. Being the mother of a newborn requires lots of energy—and that means giving your body all the nutrition it needs. If you’re patient and give your body a chance to do its work, you may be surprised at how much weight you lose naturally, especially if you’re breastfeeding.
If you do have trouble losing weight, consider seeing a registered dietitian and perhaps a fitness trainer to help you lose the appropriate amount of weight at a healthy rate.