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Weight Gain in Pregnancy: How Much Should You Gain?


Pregnancy is one time in the average American woman’s life where she doesn’t worry about gaining weight. Putting on some pregnancy pounds is, after all, an unavoidable and healthy part of growing a new life! That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to the amount of weight you gain during pregnancy. Here’s what to know about how much weight you should gain in pregnancy.

The Eating for Two Myth

It’s kind of fun during pregnancy to think and act like you’re eating for two, and in some ways you are. But the second person at your meals is teeny tiny, and his or her nutritional needs are quite tiny. Think 300 calories a day tiny. That’s not a lot of additional daily calories, mama. That means pregnancy is not the time to regard the treats table at your office as an all-you-can-eat buffet, or to indulge daily in your most deep-fried fantasies. It’s also not the time to diet or severely restrict your calories either. Healthy, nutrient-rich meals and snacks are key during pregnancy, as your body needs nutritional powerhouses like iron, folic acid, calcium, and vitamin A and Cs now more than ever.

How Much Weight Should You Gain During Pregnancy?

Doctors generally recommend women who begin pregnancy at an average healthy weight and body mass index (BMI) gain between 25 and 35 pounds over nine months. Women who are overweight when they get pregnant are advised to gain less, around 15 to 25 pounds according to WebMD. Women who are underweight before they get pregnant might need to gain more like 28 to 40 pounds. For women expecting twins, experts recommend moms gain between 35 and 45 pounds. These numbers are just general guidelines; speak to your doctor about what she or he recommends for you specifically in your pregnancy.

You might be wondering specifically how your body uses those additional pregnancy pounds. Here’s a general breakdown of how the weight is distributed in a woman who gains 30 pounds:

  • 11 pounds of fat, protein, and other nutrients (mom)
  • 4 pounds increased fluid volume
  • 2 pounds breast enlargement
  • 2 pounds uterus
  • 7.5 pounds baby
  • 2 pounds amniotic fluid
  • 1.5 pounds placenta

How Much Weight You Should Gain by Trimester

Women often wonder about what’s normal for pregnancy weight gain during each trimester. Here is the recommended breakdown of how much weight gain is recommended for each trimester of pregnancy. 

First Trimester

The first trimester is a roller coaster in a lot of ways, and your weight might very much feel like it’s on that up and down track. Some women lose or remain at their pre-pregnancy weight in the first trimester thanks to nausea, morning sickness, and food aversions. Other women gain a handful of pounds. According to WebMD, a weight gain of two to four pounds is average during the first trimester, or first three months, or pregnancy. During the first trimester, your baby doesn’t require a lot of calories. In the first trimester, the focus should be less on how much or how little you’ve gained and more on eating the most nutritious foods you’re able to stomach. 

Second Trimester

Doctors and experts recommend most women gain an average of one to two pounds a week during the second trimester of pregnancy. With morning sickness behind you (hopefully), the second trimester might feel like an opportunity for pig-out after delicious pig-out. While a little celebratory pregnancy indulgence is to be expected, remember that ideally, you’ll spend those 300 extra calories on nutritionally-dense, not junk, foods. 

Third Trimester

The recommended amount of weight gain during the third trimester of pregnancy is one to two pounds a week. Your baby grows considerably during the third trimester and adds anywhere from five to eight pounds in weight and about six inches in length. Increased blood volume, additional amniotic fluid, additional breast tissue, a larger uterus, and fat stores also add to third-trimester pregnancy weight gain. 

The Risks of Gaining Too Much and Gaining Too Little

About half of American women gain more than the recommended amount of pregnancy weight. Being overweight or obese during pregnancy can lead to complications during pregnancy, including a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, backaches, varicose veins, and delivering via cesarean section. And then here’s the challenge of losing that weight after your baby arrives. 

But it’s also important to allow yourself to gain weight as is necessary during pregnancy. Babies born to moms who gained less than 20 pounds during pregnancy might be undernourished, delivered prematurely, and at risk of developmental disabilities.

Aim to eat healthfully, control the size and frequency of your indulgences, and remain active. A healthy amount of pregnancy weight gain will fall into place. This is not medical advice, please speak to your health care professional if you have any questions or concerns about your pregnancy.

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