Even though the whole world can see that you're hugely pregnant, hearing a friend or neighbor exclaim, "Oh, my god, you're as big as a house!" doesn't exactly make a mama-to-be feel good. Sure, you were expecting to put on a few or, cough, more pounds when you saw the plus sign on that plastic stick. But you may not have been ready for the reality of the pregnant body that's staring back at you in the mirror—the one with swollen breasts, thicker thighs, and a butt that deserves its own zip code—or for others to point out your changing shape.
Just how much will you pack on during those 40 weeks? “It depends mostly on your pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI),” says Patricia Lo, M.D. an ob-gyn at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California. “For women with a normal BMI (18.5 to 24.9), we recommend about 25 to 35 pounds of pregnancy weight gain,” she says. Underweight women have a little more leeway and can gain between 28 and 40 pounds. Overweight women (with a BMI between 25 and 29.5) should gain about 15 to 25 pounds, and women who are obese (those with a BMI of 30 or above) should gain only 11 to 20 pounds, Lo says. If you’re pregnant with multiples, your pregnancy weight gain, of course, will be higher.
Luckily, you have some time to prepare for those soon-to-come pregnancy pounds. During the first trimester, you shouldn’t gain any more than a little over 4 pounds total. Some women even lose weight during those first months thanks to morning sickness and food aversions. The second and third trimesters are when you’ll really see (and feel) your weight creeping up. Your pre-pregnancy BMI determines how much you should gain during this time too. If you’re underweight or normal weight, you should gain about a pound each week of the last two trimesters, Lo says. Overweight women should gain around 0.6 pounds each week, and women who are obese should gain about 1/2 a pound each week during the second and third trimesters.
Though the weight comes on quickly, especially during the last two trimesters, putting on those pregnancy pounds can be a positive experience. Here are five reasons why pregnancy weight gain isn't as bad as you think.
1. It's important for the baby. Your growing babe needs those pounds to support his development so that he can grow big and strong. "Women who don't gain enough weight during pregnancy have a higher risk of having a preterm or low-birthweight baby," says Kathleen M. Rasmussen, Sc.D., R.D., professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell University and chair of the committee on Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Reexamining the Guidelines at the Institute of Medicine. "This can cause health issues for the baby, including breathing, heart, and digestive problems, at birth and later in life." Yikes!
2. You get to blame the hormones. When you're pregnant, your hormones turn on cravings, make certain foods taste incredible, and your body goes into storage mode, sending any and all extra calories into fat stores to be used later for nourishing the baby (unlike when you're not with child, and the only thing you have to blame for not being able to put down the Oreos is a lack of willpower).
3. Your breasts look fantastic. As your pregnancy hormones ramp up, so does your bra size. "You can expect to gain about two pounds in your breasts due to increased fluid, tissue swelling, and early milk production," says James E. Ferguson II, M.D., professor and department chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. In other words, A-cuppers will finally get to experience the joys of cleavage!
4. That big butt isn't permanent. Knowing that the body changes you're experiencing won't last forever can help you relax a little, and maybe even love your pregnancy curves. Hey, having J.Lo's best body part for a few months could be fun!
5. You can drop those pounds fast. The minute you push that baby out you'll lose about 11 pounds—that's taking into account the kiddo, all of that amniotic fluid, and the placenta. A couple of weeks later, the baby-making hormones level off, allowing your body to release the fluid weight it was retaining and tackle the fat stores. "Provided you didn't gain too much during your pregnancy, eating right and moderate exercise will help you lose the remaining baby weight relatively quickly," Rasmussen says. You'll be zipping up your pre-pregnancy jeans in no time.