What Is Normal Weight Gain During Pregnancy?


Many people stress when they first start to notice pregnancy weight gain, but gaining weight is not the same as excessive weight gain and there are often healthy reasons to put on a little weight.

Most people who bear children will find themselves faced with gestational weight gain, but this is required to keep the parent and infant healthy throughout the pregnancy process.

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Recommended Weight Gain During Pregnancy

What is the recommended amount of weight one should gain while carrying? The answer is not quite as straightforward as you might think. The reality is that a person's pre-pregnancy body mass index will play a role in determining the amount of weight that a person should gain during this time.

So you should determine your pre-pregnancy weight and BMI when figuring out what weight gains to reach. Here's how that breaks down:

  • People who are underweight before pregnancy should gain 28-40 pounds
  • People who are at a healthy weight before pregnancy should gain 25-35 pounds
  • People who are overweight before pregnancy should gain 15-25 pounds
  • People who are obese before pregnancy should gain 11-20 pounds

The Body Mass Index is often used to determine the healthy weight and obesity levels. A person's target BMI changes based on age.

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Percentage of Women Below, Within, and Above Pregnancy Weight Gain Recommendations

While the recommended amount of weight gain is ideal for a healthy pregnancy, many people gain amounts that fall above or below these goals. In 2015, a reported 21 percent of pregnancies were below the recommended weight levels, while 48 percent were said to be above these recommendations.

This left 32 percent of reported pregnancies to fall within the recommended weight gain guidelines. 

Risks of too much or too little weight gain in pregnancy 

Since most pregnancies fall outside of the recommended guidelines, the risks of too little weight gain or excessive weight gain are important information for people who are pregnant, as this can have a detrimental effect on your pregnancy outcome.

Gaining too little weight during pregnancy has been connected with infants who are preterm or born with a low birth weight.

Underweight babies can have long-term health issues, such as developmental delays, trouble breastfeeding, and facing an increased risk for illnesses.

Gaining more than the recommended pregnancy weight gain could result in an infant who is larger than most newborns.

Depending on the size of the baby, this could cause delivery complications or could remove the option of a natural birth, making a cesarean necessary.

Extra pounds gained during pregnancy could lead to obesity for the baby during their childhood years, as well as for the mother. Obesity has been tied to a higher risk for health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Weight Gain Recommendations For Women Pregnant With Twins

Naturally, if someone is pregnant with more than one baby, they will need to gain more weight than they would for a single child pregnancy. On average, a person carrying twins will need to gain 10 to 20 more pounds than they would when pregnant with just one child. The recommended weight gain guidelines for people pregnant with twins is as follows:

  • People who are underweight before pregnancy should gain 50-62 pounds
  • People who are at a healthy weight before pregnancy should gain 37-54 pounds
  • People who are overweight before pregnancy should gain 31-50 pounds
  • People who are obese before pregnancy should gain 25-42 pounds

Managing your weight gain during pregnancy

If proper weight gain during pregnancy is so important to your long-term health and pregnancy outcome, how does one ensure healthy weight gain during the course of their pregnancy? 

Weight Tracking

Many experts say one of the best ways to ensure proper pregnancy weight is to monitor weight gain throughout the pregnancy. Doctors will do this every time you come in for an appointment, but you can also do this at home on your own. It's best to check your weight at the same time each day, as most people will see a fluctuation of weight throughout each day.

Weighing at the same time every day should provide you with a baseline number that can give you a good idea of your average daily weight so you can determine when you are gaining too little or too much.

Keeping your weight tracking as consistent as possible (same time of day, wearing the same amount of clothing, and using the same scale) should also help to provide as accurate a number as possible.

If excessive weight gain is noticed during the third trimester while observing healthy eating habits, you may want to speak with a doctor about preeclampsia. 

Exercise

Once you have determined your baseline weight, you're going to want to ensure that you are not gaining too quickly. Those looking to keep their weight under control are often recommended to exercise, and it's no different for those who are pregnant.

Provided that there are no underlying health conditions or pregnancy complications, the CDC suggests moderate activity (like going for a brisk walk) for up to two hours each week.

Diet

As with most health and weight concerns, a healthy diet is considered a good way to avoid the risks of suboptimal pregnancy weight gain.

A healthy pregnancy diet does not always include larger quantities of food (though of course, it can) but rather could be made up of foods higher in good fats and fiber.

By eating more nutritious and filling foods, you can ensure you and your baby are getting the right diet without eating too much extra. Healthy foods for pregnant women include:

  • Whole grains
  • Nuts, seeds, and legumes
  • Fish (especially high in fat)
  • Poultry
  • Lean Meat
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Low Fat Dairy

Keep in mind, that though you should be eating foods high in fiber and high healthy fats, you should still avoid solid, unhealthy fats. These include:

  • Fatty Meats
  • Full Fat Dairy
  • Fried Foods

Sugars should also be limited. Not only do sugars provide empty (meaning you get no nutrition out of them) calories, but you will not feel full for very long and will end up needing to consume more.

Diets high in sugar could also lead to gestational diabetes, which could cause a whole host of health risks and pregnancy complications including premature birth, birth defects, and more. Avoid unhealthy desserts and sodas. Surprisingly, juice (especially concentrated juices) are also high sugar empty calorie items. Try drinking fresh-squeezed juices or eating the fruit itself, instead.

Count Calories

Of course, you will need to eat more calories while pregnant so both you and your baby maintain proper nutrition, but "eating for two" does not actually mean you should be eating twice as much as you usually would. In fact, you will not need to consume extra calories during every trimester and many people finding themselves eating smaller meals as morning sickness takes effect.

As with additional pounds gained, additional calories will depend on your pre-pregnancy eating habits. Here's how to monitor your caloric intake during each trimester:

  • The first trimester most people should not need extra calories
  • The second trimester most people should increase by 300-350 calories per day (600 for twins)
  • The third trimester most people should increase by 500 calories per day (800 for twins)

These guidelines work best for those starting with a pre-pregnancy weight that falls within the recommended guidelines.

If you are underweight or overweight before you become pregnant, you should consider talking to your doctor or dietitian before creating your diet plan as you may require fewer or extra calories to keep your weight gain at a healthy rate.

Working with your health care provider

While there are lots of things pregnant people can do to keep track of their weight gain, diet, caloric intake, and health, healthcare providers can better understand each person's individual needs. These guidelines can be incredibly useful, but your individual health, pregnancy risks/complications, genetics, and a variety of other factors will always play a part in determining your diet and exercise needs. 

Your doctor will be able to keep a record of your weight with each visit, and will be able to give you an idea of how much of that weight is going to the baby, also determining if the baby is growing at a healthy rate. This should aid in your own weight tracking efforts, or even replace them if your pregnancy is healthy and you would like a more official readout of your weight gain.

As mentioned before, if you are gaining weight rapidly but observing a healthy routine, you may need to speak with a physician to determine whether or not you are at risk for or experiencing certain pregnancy complications. People who are already experiencing complications or who were outside of the recommended pre-pregnancy weight guidelines should also speak to a doctor before making their diet plans to ensure their specific needs are met.

References

https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pregnancy-weight-gain.htm

https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/weight-gain-during-pregnancy.aspx