If you’re newly pregnant, you can anticipate many changes in your body over the next nine months. Many new moms-to-be wonder “How much weight should you gain during pregnancy?” The answer varies from woman to woman, but there are some guidelines you can follow to help you stay on track.
Learn why it’s essential to aim for a healthy weight gain during pregnancy — and what’s an appropriate pregnancy weight gain timeline.
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Pregnancy Weight Gain Goals
Healthy weight gain during pregnancy helps ensure that your baby is well-nourished and grows and develops normally. The recommended amount of weight gain during pregnancy depends on your weight and BMI before you got pregnant:
- If you were underweight (BMI less than 18.5), you should gain 28-40 pounds.
- If your BMI was in the normal range (18.5 to 24.9), you should gain 25-35 pounds.
- If overweight (25-29.9,) you should gain 15-25 pounds.
- If your BMI was in the obese range (over 30), you should gain 11-20 pounds.
These recommendations are for one baby. Ask your doctor for their specific advice if you’re carrying multiple babies.
If you don’t gain enough, you risk having a newborn that’s too small (less than 5 pounds 8 ounces) and has trouble eating. Low birth weight babies are also at a higher risk for health problems and long-term physical and mental disabilities.
On the other hand, too much weight gain during pregnancy increases your risk of having a large baby. If your baby is 10 pounds or more, delivery is more challenging, and you may need a C-section. Excess weight during pregnancy also ups your chances of developing health problems like:
- Gestational diabetes. This means your blood sugar is too high during pregnancy. It increases your risk of having a too-large baby. Women with gestational diabetes are also more likely to develop diabetes later in life.
- High blood pressure (hypertension). High blood pressure is dangerous for you and your baby during pregnancy. It can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or a serious condition in which your placenta pulls away from your uterus. High blood pressure can also lead to a stillbirth.
- Excess weight retained after your pregnancy. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing chronic diseases with age. You’re more likely to develop diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and osteoarthritis.
Weight Gain During Pregnancy by Trimester
It’s normal to only gain up to two to four pounds during your first trimester. You might even lose a few pounds if you have severe morning sickness. But during your second trimester, you should start gaining weight at a steady pace as your baby grows.
Throughout the second and third trimesters, you should gain about one pound per week. If you’re carrying twins, you should gain about 1½ pounds per week.
Your doctor will check your weight at each prenatal visit to ensure your weight is on track from month to month. You can also check it at home in between your office visits. If you gain too much too quickly or have several weeks without weight gain (or weight loss), alert your doctor.
A sudden weight gain (more than 2 pounds in a week) might be a sign of preeclampsia. This is a very dangerous type of high blood pressure that can develop during pregnancy. No weight gain or a sudden weight loss might indicate a problem with your baby’s growth.
You might wonder what causes that weight gain — especially since most newborns weigh less than nine pounds. In addition to your baby, pregnancy weight gain comes from:
- Placenta: 2 to 3 pounds.
- Amniotic fluid: 2 to 3 pounds.
- Breast tissue: 2 to 3 pounds.
- Blood supply: 4 pounds.
- Uterus growth: 2 to 5 pounds.
- Fat stores: 5 to 9 pounds.
How Many Calories Do You Need?
It’s true that you’re feeding two people, but that doesn’t mean you need twice your regular calories. During your first trimester, you actually don’t need any extra calories. But it’s crucial to eat a healthy, balanced diet and make every bite count.
Try to eat:
- Protein from eggs, yogurt, milk, fish, chicken, beef, or beans at each meal and snack.
- At least five to seven servings of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables throughout the day.
- A serving of whole-grain carbs like oats, whole wheat bread, brown rice, barley, or quinoa at each meal and snack.
- A few servings of healthy fats from foods like avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fatty fish throughout the day.
Once you start your second trimester, you’ll need about 340 extra calories a day over your regular pre-pregnancy diet. And during your third trimester, you should aim for an additional 450 calories per day to meet your weight goals. You can easily get those extra calories by adding one or two daily snacks like:
- A peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread and a glass of milk.
- A container of Greek yogurt topped with berries, chopped nuts, and granola.
- One large whole-grain pita bread with hummus and raw vegetables.
- Two deviled eggs with a handful of whole-wheat crackers, a slice of cheese, and a bunch of grapes.
Experts don’t recommend dieting or weight loss during pregnancy, even if you’re overweight before getting pregnant. If you need to slow your weight gain, look out for these foods which provide excess calories with little nutrition:
- Sweets or desserts.
- Sweetened soft drinks.
- Fried fast food.
- Salty snacks like chips.
- Foods or meals prepared with lots of added butter, cheese, or cream.
If you’re unsure what or how much to eat during your pregnancy, ask to work with a registered dietitian. They can help you plan healthy meals and snacks to nourish you and your baby and keep your weight goal on track.
About UPMC Magee-Womens
Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.
Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.