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Pregnancy Weight Gain

A question that is on almost every pregnant woman's mind: How much weight should I gain? Whether you started off with a bang and gained 10 pounds in the first trimester, or were felled by morning sickness and are thinner than ever, you'll need to know the basics: How much weight gain is necessary? When in the pregnancy should you be gaining, and where does all that weight go?

Optimal weight gain depends on your pre-pregnancy height and weight and how many babies you're carrying. The National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine uses the following guidelines for pregnancy weight gain.

  • If you're underweight, gain 28 to 40 pounds
  • If you're of normal weight, gain 25 to 35 pounds
  • If you're overweight, gain 15 to 25 pounds
  • If you're obese, follow your doctor's recommendation, but look to gain 15 to 20 pounds
  • If you're carrying twins, gain between 35 and 45 pounds, regardless of your current weight

The average pregnant woman needs an extra 300 calories a day. That may sound like a lot, but it's equal to the number of calories in a Snickers bar or a small bowl of ice cream. Be sure to make those extra calories count by adding one or two healthful snacks to your diet, such as a bowl of high-fiber cereal and milk, or a fresh-fruit and yogurt shake.

Even if you find that your appetite remains low, you still need to eat well. Studies show that women who gain less than the recommended amount are at increased risk of delivering low-birth-weight babies. Low birth weight in infants has been connected to higher infant mortality and a host of childhood developmental, physical and psychological problems.

Although no two women are going to gain weight at exactly the same rate, there are some guidelines to follow: In the first trimester, you should gain 3.5 pounds if you're of normal weight. Underweight women need to gain 5 pounds, while overweight women should gain just 2.

In the second and third trimesters, your weight gain begins to speed up. An average-weight woman will gain about a pound a week between weeks 14 and 28. Underweight women should gain a little more than a pound a week during this time, and overweight women should try to limit their weekly gain to around one-half to three-quarters of a pound. Weight gain may drop off in the ninth month to only a pound or two as your body prepares for the birth.

  • Baby: 7 1/2 lbs
  • Placenta: 1 1/2 lbs
  • Amniotic fluid: 2 lbs
  • Uterine enlargement: 2 lbs
  • Maternal breast tissue: 2 lbs
  • Maternal blood volume: 4 lbs
  • Fluids in maternal tissue: 4 lbs
  • Maternal fat stores: 7 lbs

What if despite all the best advice you still gain too much? Don't panic: You can get your pre-pregnancy body back. Get active as soon as you get the okay from your doctor. Take your baby out for long walks in the stroller, or start a mom-and-baby walking group in your neighborhood.

Finally, breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby and yourself. A recent study from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists shows that while breastfeeding may not speed weight loss in the first six months postpartum, it helps women lose the weight eventually and to keep it off in the years that follow.

Sources: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; The National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.