Pregnancy Weight Gain—An Overview

The most common question asked by newly pregnant women is what the right amount of weight they should gain, and what amount of weight should they put on at each of the three stages of pregnancy.

Gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy is important as it ensures that the baby is receiving proper amounts of nutrients for him or her to develop normally. There are some general guidelines when it comes to weight gain during pregnancy, but you should discuss your specific goals with your doctor to ensure that he or she agrees, as each pregnancy is different.

Overall Pregnancy Weight

The amount of weight that a woman gains during pregnancy hinges primarily on what weight group she is in prior to becoming pregnant. A woman who is in a normal weight range should aim to gain 25 to 35 pounds by the time she delivers. An underweight woman needs to gain more weight for a total gain of 30 to 40 pounds, while an overweight woman only needs to gain 15 to 25 pounds. Women who are obese can gain 15 pounds or less.

With pregnancies involving multiples the woman should aim to gain 10-15 pounds more per additional baby, although sometimes this can be difficult, especially since multiples tend not to reach full gestational maturity.

Where the Weight Goes

Many women wonder why, if an average baby is around 7 pounds they need to gain 5 times that amount for a healthy pregnancy. Most of the weight gain is not the baby, but what is needed to create a healthy and safe support system for the baby. Primarily the additional weight is fluids – such as the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby and blood volume. Other additions include the placenta, breast tissue and uterine growth. The body also tends to store up fat (about five to nine pounds) in the cells prior to the birth, so that the mother can provide nutrition to her baby after he or she is born.

Pregnant women will often notice that they have swelling in their hands or feet during pregnancy; this is the result of the body retaining fluid. While this can be uncomfortable at times the additional fluids usually leave the body within a few days after birth, meaning an immediate weight loss of a few pounds.

When and What to Gain

It is important that pregnancy weight gain be gradual – otherwise too much will be stored as fat and you will need to gain more weight for everything else. Additionally it can lead to health problems, such as gestational diabetes or increased blood pressure.

During the first trimester it is normal to only gain a few pounds, and sometime nothing at all. Keep in mind that you are not eating for two, you are eating for yourself plus a tiny fetus so an extra 100-300 calories per day is all that is needed.

In the second trimester weight gain will accelerate as the baby grows bigger and your body becomes more prepared for childbirth. One half to one pound per week is usually normal.  In the last trimester, especially the last few weeks most of the weight gain is going directly to the baby, so a pound per week, sometimes more is perfectly normal.

If at any time you are having trouble gaining weight, or you are gaining too much weight you should consult your doctor. They may be able to help you identify problem areas or direct you to a dietician who can help you put together a well rounded diet for you and your baby. After all, it is his home too for the next few months, so you want to ensure he is getting the proper care and nutrition.

 

    

 

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