Weight Gain During Pregnancy
The extra weight you gain during pregnancy nourishes your growing baby. Learn about the guidelines for healthy pregnancy weight gain.
Some weight gain is a normal part of pregnancy. The extra weight you gain gives nourishment to your growing baby. And also can provide stores for breast-feeding.
Some women might feel pregnancy gives them a license to eat. If they have to gain weight anyway, why not go ahead and indulge for nine months? But, gaining too much weight can increase health risks for you and your baby. And so can gaining too little.
It’s important to find a happy medium. Gaining too little weight puts you and your baby at risk for not getting the nourishment you both need. Gaining too much can increase your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, backaches and varicose veins. Plus, excess weight is harder to shed after the baby is born.
Weight gain guidelines
Your doctor will guide you on how much weight to gain based on your body mass index (BMI). General recommendations from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are as follows:
If your BMI before pregnancy was:
You should gain about:
Less than 18.5 (underweight): 28–40 pounds
18.5–24.9 (normal weight): 25–35 pounds
25–29.9 (overweight): 15–25 pounds
30 or more (obese): 11–20 pounds
*The ranges in this chart are for women pregnant with one baby
Though weight gain will vary, most women gain about 1 to 4 pounds total during the first trimester. Some gain less if they have morning sickness. Others gain more due to decreased activity and increased water weight.
During the second and third trimesters, your doctor may suggest you gain about 3 to 4 pounds per month. Often, weight gain slows during the last two weeks, and some women actually lose a pound or two before the birth. A woman whose weight was in the healthy range before the pregnancy may look to gain between 25 and 35 pounds. Women pregnant with more than one baby will have slightly higher weight gain recommendations.
How to keep weight in check
You only need to add about 300 calories a day to your current diet. That is the equivalent of a half a turkey sandwich and a glass of skim milk or 1 cup of fat-free fruit yogurt and a medium apple. Aim for a sensible meal plan that is rich in vitamins and minerals for the developing baby.
A well-rounded diet includes choosing from the food groups below. Look to add folate through foods. Your doctor will likely also recommend prenatal vitamins to help make sure you get enough vital nutrients.
- Fruits: whole fresh fruit as well as frozen or canned*
- Dairy: fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products
- Veggies: vary the color and type of veggie from fresh, frozen or canned*
- Whole grains: bread, oatmeal, and fortified ready-to-eat cereal
- Lean proteins such as lean meat, skinless chicken and turkey, fish (salmon, trout, herring, sardines and Pollock), cottage cheese, low-fat yogurt, beans and tofu
*If using canned, look for low sodium and no added sugar.
Note: Due to the high methylmercury content in certain fish, limit white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces per week and do not eat the following four types of fish: shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.
Three balanced meals and healthy snacks. Space your meals out during the day, having a snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon. This will help you get in the nutrients you and your baby need.
Nutrition value. The extra calories you need add up quickly. They should be used to provide a nutrition boost, and should not be empty calories.
No alcohol. Pregnant women and those women planning to become pregnant should not drink alcohol. Alcohol can be harmful to the baby and may affect adequate intake of nutrients.
Never try to lose weight during your pregnancy. If you’re overweight, talk with your doctor about an eating plan that is right for you. A healthy diet and a doctor-approved exercise program can help you stay on track to healthy weight gain during pregnancy.
By Jane Schwartz Harrison, RD, Contributing Writer
For more information, please visit Optum's Health Library
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Committee opinion. Number 548, January 2013. Reaffirmed 2015. Weight gain during pregnancy. Accessed: June 20, 2016.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Your Pregnancy and Childbirth. 6th ed. Washington, DC: ACOG; 2015.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Nutrition during pregnancy. Accessed: June 20, 2016.
ChooseMyplate.gov. Pregnancy & breastfeeding: Health & nutrition information. Accessed: June 20, 2016.
Last Updated: June 27, 2016
The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs and to determine whether making a lifestyle change or decision based on this information is appropriate for you. Some treatments mentioned may not be covered by your health plan. Please refer to your benefit plan documents for information about coverage.