Healthy Weight Gain During Pregnancy

The board-certified and caring obstetricians at All About Women discuss weight gain during pregnancy, and how it can and should happen in a healthy way

Our society puts a lot of pressure on women about their weight. It's no wonder that many women, despite their desire to nourish the growing baby within them, feel anxiety and uncertainty about the amount of weight they'll gain over the course of their pregnancy. They may wonder how much weight is too much or if they'll ever be able to loose the weight after a pregnancy.

One way to ease the anxiety of pregnancy weight gain is to educate yourself about how much weight you should gain over the course of your pregnancy, how many extra calories you actually need each day, and how to gain weight in a healthy manner.

While you should always consult with and follow the advice of your obstetrician or midwife, here are some basics on weight gain and pregnancy.

How Much You Gain Depends On What You Weigh Now

In 2009, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) revised its recommendations on weight gain during pregnancy and now base it on pre-pregnancy Body Mass Index (BMI).

Your BMI is calculated by using your height and weight. Women's BMI measurements can be anywhere between 15 and 35. These measurements are classified on a scale that ranges from underweight, to normal, overweight, and obese.

You can learn your BMI using this handy calculator. Since the proper amount of weight gain depends on Body Mass Index, once you've calculated your pre-pregnancy BMI, you can calculate how much weight you should gain during the course of your pregnancy:

IOM Weight Gain Guidelines for Pregnancy

Pre-pregnancy BMI Measurement

Total Weight Gain (lbs)

18.5 (Underweight)

28–40

18.5–24.9 (Normal)

25–35

25.0–29.9 (Overweight)

15–25

>30.0 (Obese)

11–20

Adapted from the IOM Guidelines for Weight Gain During Pregnancy

As you can see, women who are underweight ought to gain more than women who are overweight or obese. Talk with your obstetrician or midwife to understand exactly how much weight you should aim to gain during your pregnancy.

Gain Slowly

Not all weight gain is created equal in pregnancy. Weight gain is more necessary later in your pregnancy than at the beginning. During your first trimester, you don't need to gain much, if any weight.

During the second and third trimester, you should aim for gradual weight gain, about a pound per week if you're under or normal weight, and closer to a half a pound if you're overweight or obese.

For women who are overweight, it's important to pay close attention to the amount of weight gained during pregnancy, as obesity can make pregnancy more risky for both you and your baby.

Extra Calories Needed During Pregnancy

While knowing how much weight you should gain during pregnancy can be helpful, it can be hard to translate a number like 25 pounds over nine months into how much more food you should eat every day.

Does gaining 25 pounds overall mean that you can eat a milkshake every day or that you should stick to rice cakes?

In general, an adult woman needs around 2,000 calories a day. When she's pregnant, that caloric intake is increased to 2,200 to 2,900 calories a day. Here are the caloric intake recommendations of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

  • First trimester: No extra calories needed
  • Second Trimester: 340 additional calories a day recommended
  • Third Trimester: 450 additional calories a day recommended

Keep in mind that these recommendations are for women who are considered normal weight. Your obstetrician may recommend you work with a nutritionist to set calorie intake goals if you are under or overweight, or obese.

Remember that all calories are not created equally in pregnancy. You want to feed your baby the most nutritious food possible. Pregnant women particularly need extra calcium, iron, protein, and folate, so you should aim for foods that are high in these nutrients.

You can learn more about the right and wrong foods to eat by reading our article - What to Eat (...and Not to Eat) When Pregnant.

Gain and Lose Pregnancy Weight Wisely

When you understand how to approach pregnancy weight gain from the beginning and work with your obstetrician, you have good chances of meeting appropriate weight gain targets for your individual situation.

After your baby is born, remember that it took nine months to gain weight and it will likely take nine months to loose it again. Gaining a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy, along with exercise both during and after, can help you get back to your starting weight faster.

And if you're not sure about breastfeeding, consider it a great way to help you loose your post-pregnancy weight.

The board-certified obstetricians and midwives of northern Florida's All About Women are here to provide knowledgeable and compassionate care throughout your pregnancy.

If you have concerns about pregnancy weight gain, nutrition, or need to schedule your first prenatal visit, call our Gainesville or Lake City office today, and continue browsing our pregnancy knowledge center for more information.