Women are well-aware that pregnancies require weight gain, but many are not well-informed about how much weight gain is considered healthy. Nourishing and protecting your baby isn’t a matter of simply allowing pounds to build up as your pregnancy progresses. Instead, it’s important to monitor your weight gain and take steps to ensure that you’re gaining that weight in a healthy way. Learn more about what to expect as far as weight gain during pregnancy along with tips for how to lose the weight after giving birth.
What to Expect
How much weight you can expect to gain during your pregnancy is largely determined by your pre-pregnancy weight. It’s important to keep in mind that your pre-pregnancy weight can also determine whether you’re at a greater risk for certain complications during your pregnancy. For example, women who are overweight before pregnancy have a higher risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, while underweight women may have a baby born earlier or smaller than expected.
A general guideline set forth by the Mayo Clinic provides a healthy estimated pregnancy weight gain based on a woman’s body mass index (BMI) before her pregnancy begins:
- BMI under 18.5 (underweight) – recommended weight gain of 28 to 40 pounds
- BMI 18.5 to 24.9 (normal) – recommended weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds
- BMI 25 to 29.9 (overweight) – recommended weight gain of 15 to 25 pounds
- BMI 30 or more (obese) – recommended weight gain of 11 to 20 pounds
For moms carrying twins, those amounts are increased as follows:
- BMI 18.5 to 24.9 (normal) – recommended weight gain of 37 to 54 pounds
- BMI 25 to 29.9 (overweight) – recommended weight gain of 31 to 50 pounds
- BMI 30 or more (obese) – recommended weight gain of 25 to 42 pounds
In addition to an overall expected weight gain, many women are curious about how fast they can expect that weight to accumulate. According to Baby Center, pregnant women should gain about 1 to 5 pounds during their first trimester, followed by about one pound per week for the remainder of their pregnancy. This rate of weight gain is optimal for the healthy growth of the baby.
Complications of Unhealthy Weight Gain
It’s important to monitor your weight gain throughout your pregnancy. Studies have found that women who gain too much weight during their pregnancy have a higher risk of having a cesarean delivery. The baby may also turn out to be too large at birth, causing other labor complications. Moms who gain excess weight while pregnant also tend to have a harder time shedding that weight after giving birth and may struggle with breastfeeding.
Not gaining enough weight can also cause complications during a woman’s pregnancy. Those who don’t gain sufficient weight have a higher risk of delivering a preterm infant or having a baby with a low birth weight. Both of these issues can lead to health problems or even fatality for the baby.
Tips for Proper Weight Gain During Pregnancy
There are two important factors to keep in mind as you gain weight during your pregnancy. The first is to make sure you’re gaining the proper amount of weight, while the second is to make sure you’re gaining that weight by eating healthy foods rather than junk food.
For the first trimester (where only a few pounds need to be gained), the Mayo Clinic recommends eating an extra 150 to 200 calories per day. For the rest of the pregnancy (where a woman should gain about a pound per week), only an extra 300 calories per day are typically required.
Since your baby is nourished by the foods you eat, it’s important to get these extra calories from healthy foods. Use the following tips to gain weight in a healthy manner during pregnancy:
- Choose whole-grains over white bread or pasta
- Drink juices fortified with calcium and other nutrients
- Eat healthy snacks like sliced fruit rather than cookies or other junk foods
- Replace meals like a burger and fries with salads and other healthy options
Tips for Proper Weight Loss After Giving Birth
Most mothers lost about half of their pregnancy weight gain in the first six weeks after giving birth. While the baby typically weighs about 7.5 pounds, the amniotic fluid, placenta and excess body fluids and blood account for 8 to 12 pounds, so a significant amount of weight is lost very quickly.
New mothers shouldn’t cut back on calories too soon, however. Those calories are needed for the energy of caring for a newborn. Breastfeeding actually burns calories, helping new moms to lose excess weight faster. It can take months to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight, but with a healthy diet and regular exercise helps women lose that weight faster and keep it off.
Pregnant women should see their doctor regularly to monitor their weight gain and to get personalized recommendations for how much weight they need to gain. Don’t make any significant changes to your diet or routine during pregnancy without consulting your doctor first.