What Is Pregnancy Weight Gain?

How Many Pounds to Put on to Support a Healthy Pregnancy

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When you’re expecting, some pregnancy weight gain is normal. To support your developing baby or babies, it’s important to maintain or adopt healthy habits, including a nutritious diet and regular exercise, under the guidance of your healthcare professional.

Depending on your pre-pregnancy weight and body mass index (BMI)—an indicator of your body fat mass based on your weight and height—you may need to make certain lifestyle changes to support or slow weight gain for you and your child’s well-being.

Learn about managing your weight from the first trimester to delivery, including where those extra pounds go, guidelines for how much weight to gain, and more. 

Pregnant person gets weighed by healthcare professional

Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

Purpose 

During pregnancy, much of your weight gain helps support your developing child or children. Many components add to the total.

By your due date, you could be carrying 8 pounds (3.5 kilograms) for your child; another 8 to 14 pounds (4 to 7 kilograms) in your growing womb, placenta, amniotic fluid, and breast tissue; 5 to 9 pounds (2.5 to 4 kilograms) in fat stores; and 4 pounds (2 kilograms) in additional blood supply, for a total of about 35 extra pounds (16 kilograms).

How Much Pregnancy Weight to Gain

Just how much weight you may need to put on depends on the health status of you and your baby or babies, your weight before pregnancy, and your BMI.

A healthcare professional can help you determine a healthy goal weight and pace throughout your pregnancy. 

Here’s a general guide to how much weight you should aim to gain based on your pre-pregnancy BMI.

If you’re having one baby:

  • Underweight (BMI less than 18.5): 28 to 40 pounds (13 to 18 kilograms)
  • Normal weight (BMI between 18.5 and 24.9): 25 to 35 pounds (11 to 16 kilograms)
  • Overweight (BMI between 25 and 29.9): 15 to 25 pounds (7 to 11 kilograms)
  • Obese (BMI 30 and up): 11 to 20 pounds (5 to 9 kilograms) 

If you’re having twins:

  • Underweight (BMI less than 18.5): 50 to 62 pounds (23 to 28 kilograms)
  • Normal weight (BMI between 18.5 and 24.9): 37 to 54 pounds (17 to 24 kilograms)
  • Overweight (BMI between 25 and 29.9): 31 to 50 pounds (14 to 23 kilograms)
  • Obese (BMI 30 and up): 25 to 42 pounds (11 to 19 kilograms)

If you’re having multiples, talk to your doctor for additional guidance on a healthy weight gain goal. 

Importance 

Gaining the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy isn’t only important for your developing little one—it could also reduce your risk of pregnancy-related complications.

If you gain too little weight, you could deliver a baby that’s born too early or too small. This could lead to the following challenges:

  • Difficulties breastfeeding or breathing after birth
  • Potentially higher risk of illness 
  • In a small number of cases, developmental delays 

On the other hand, if you gain too much weight during pregnancy, you could have your own health challenges or give birth to a baby that’s too large. This could cause:

  • Pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes or high blood pressure disorders like preeclampsia
  • Delivery complications such as prolonged labor or the need for a C-section  
  • Postpartum obesity
  • Childhood obesity for baby

Timing 

So, how much weight should you try to gain week by week? Again, this can vary depending on your starting point, so be sure to check in with your healthcare provider for specifics. 

In the meantime, here’s a loose guide:

  • Underweight or normal weight: For the first few months of pregnancy, eat what you usually eat to gain about 1 to 4 pounds (0.5 to 2 kilograms) total. During your second and third trimesters, add a large snack (about 300 extra calories per day) to gain about 1 pound (0.5 kilogram) each week.
  • Overweight or obese: Aim to gain about 1/2 pound (0.2 kilograms) per week during your second and third trimesters by adding a small snack to your diet each day (think: a glass of low-fat milk and a piece of fruit).

Concerned about how much weight you are (or aren’t) gaining? Don’t go on a diet, attempt to lose weight, or overdo junk food while pregnant. Contact your doctor to figure out the best route forward for you.

Management 

If you’re struggling to gain weight at a steady pace, know that you’re not alone. Research shows it can be challenging to hit the sweet spot for pregnancy weight gain, as only about one-third (32%) of pregnant people gain the recommended amount of weight, while 21% gain too little and 48% gain too much.

Here are a few ways to manage your weight while you’re expecting: 

  • Ask your doctor for advice. They can help you calculate your BMI, track weight gain throughout your pregnancy, and suggest lifestyle changes that suit your specific needs. 
  • Eat well. As you add more calories to your diet, stock up on nutrient-packed foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains like oatmeal and quinoa, yogurt, nuts, and lean proteins like chicken and turkey breast.
  • To slow weight gain, opt for reduced-fat dairy, swap sugary beverages for water, eat out less often, and make your portion sizes a little smaller.
  • To gain more weight, add healthy fats and snacks to your diet such as olive oil, nut butter with whole grain crackers, nuts, dried fruit, and avocados.
  • Combat nausea with mini-meals. To ensure you and your child are getting the nutrients you need despite morning sickness, try to eat small, nutrient-dense meals every couple of hours.
  • Get active. With your healthcare professional’s okay, aim for or work up to 150 minutes of physical activity each week or about 30 minutes per day. Avoid contact sports and go for exercises you’re comfortable with such as a moderate-intensity version of your usual workout, walking, or swimming. During sweat sessions, take plenty of breaks and stay hydrated.

A Word From Verywell 

Carrying a child is a huge undertaking, to say the least. But pregnancy does come with many changes that can be really difficult, including struggles gaining weight or slowing weight gain, as well as waves of nausea and discomfort.

While some people love how their body transforms to accommodate a developing baby, others have difficulty adjusting to a new image in the mirror. No matter where you fall on the spectrum, know that it’s perfectly normal.

If you’re feeling uncomfortable in a larger body, remember that the extra weight you’re gaining is there to support a healthy pregnancy and will benefit you and your child alike. If you’re worried that you’re gaining too little or too much weight or struggling with your body image, reach out to your healthcare professional.

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Article Sources
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