Weight Gain During Pregnancy
Weight gain during pregnancy helps your unborn baby grow and develop. Therefore, it's vital to gain the right amount of weight for your baby's and your good health. Consult with your doctor on how much weight you should gain because gaining too much or too little weight during pregnancy can pose various health risks.
According to experts, if you gain too little weight while pregnant, you’re more likely to:
- have a preterm baby, born before 37 weeks of pregnancy
- have a low birth weight baby, under 2.5kg at birth
When this happens, your newborn is at greater risk for:
- physical and mental disabilities
- illness in the initial days of life
- long-term health consequences later in life
On the other side, putting on too much weight while pregnant can also increase your and your baby's risk of various health problems during and post pregnancy, including:
- cesarean birth (C-Section)
- a long labor and birth
- a premature newborn who may experience health problems, like being obese or overweight, at birth or later in life
- a poor supply of oxygen for the baby during childbirth
- an injury to you or your baby during labor
- having an infant with fetal macrosomia. This is a condition in which a newborn weighs more than 4 kg. Having a baby much larger than average can lead to pregnancy complications, like postpartum hemorrhage
- have trouble losing weight after delivery
And if you are extremely overweight during pregnancy, you are at greater risk than other women to have:
- pregnancy problems, such as hemorrhoids, gestational diabetes, varicose veins, and preeclampsia
- having a baby with a birth defect, such as a neural tube or heart defect
- miscarriage or stillbirth
As per a study conducted by CDC, only about 32% of women gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy, and most women gain weight outside of the recommended range (48% too much and 21% too little).
How much weight should you gain during pregnancy?
Gynecologists use your BMI (Body Mass Index) before pregnancy to determine the amount of weight you should gain while pregnant. BMI is an estimate of body fat calculated from height and weight.
According to various studies, women with a healthy pre-pregnancy weight (BMI 18.5-24.9) should gain 11-16 kg. On the other hand, underweight women (BMI under 18.5) should gain 12-18 kg, and overweight women (BMI 25 to 29.9) should gain 6-11 kg during pregnancy.
And if you're an overweight or obese woman with a pre-pregnancy BMI greater than or equal to 30.0, you should only gain about 4 to 9 kg total during pregnancy. Likewise, you may gain anywhere from 11 to 28 kg based on your BMI before pregnancy if you're carrying twins.
Whether you're carrying a single baby or twins, you can use the graphic below as a quick reference to figure out your personal weight gain goal.
Lastly, consult your gynecologist to learn about your healthy pregnancy weight gain if you're expecting triplets or more.
How much weight should you gain each trimester?
Make sure you are gaining weight gradually. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the weight gain rate for a woman with healthy pre-pregnancy weight is:
- First Trimester: 0-0.5 kg per month for a total of 0.5-2 kg.
- Second Trimester: 0.5-1 kg per week for a total of 5 to 6 kg.
- Third Trimester: 0.5-1 kg per week for a total of 4 to 6 kg.
Also Read: Pregnancy Must-Haves - First Trimester, Second Trimester, Third Trimester
Your weight gain during pregnancy may fluctuate from one week to another, so consult your healthcare provider if you gain or lose weight suddenly, particularly during the last trimester. As mentioned earlier, excessive weight gain or loss may lead to various pregnancy complications.
Breakdown of weight gain during pregnancy
Weight gain during pregnancy is totally normal. But, do you know where this weight gain goes? Babies usually weigh around 3 to 3.6 kilograms, and that's some part of your weight gain. What about the rest? Well, here’s the approximate breakdown for a 14 kg pregnancy weight gain:
- Baby: 3.4 kg
- Amniotic fluid: 1 kg
- Placenta: 0.6 kg
- Maternal blood volume: 2 kg
- Breast enlargement: 1 kg
- Uterine enlargement: 1 kg
- Maternal fat stores: 3 kg
- Body fluids: 2 kg
You should gain weight in all these areas to deliver a healthy newborn, enjoy a healthful pregnancy, and get your body prepared for breastfeeding.
How many calories should you eat for a healthy weight gain?
The key to optimum weight gain during pregnancy is to eat a nutritious, balanced diet that includes consuming the recommended calories. Here is a rough breakdown of calories by each trimester:
- First trimester: No extra calories required unless you are underweight!
- Second trimester: Your baby is growing fast. Up your calorie intake by 300-350 calories every day.
- Third trimester: Increase your calorie intake to 400-500 calories per day.
And if you're carrying twins or multiples, you'll need to add about 250-300 calories per day for each baby to these counts.
How to avoid excessive weight gain during pregnancy?
It's easy to put on weight during pregnancy, but you must avoid excessive weight gain. If you are gaining a lot of weight, here are some tips to slow it down:
- Avoid whole-milk products. Instead, choose skimmed milk, low-fat yogurt, and cheese.
- Avoid fried items
- Limit your intake of sugary or sweet drinks. Opt for mineral water, club soda, or water instead.
- Avoid sugar or artificial sweeteners.
- Avoid eating high-calorie snacks or junk-food
- Use lower-fat alternatives for cooking oil butter, salad dressings, etc.
- Avoid consuming too much salt as it increases water retention.
- Exercise regularly to burn extra calories. Swimming, yoga, and walking are great for pregnant women.
It's vital to focus on nutrient-rich foods and stay away from unfilled calories to keep your weight healthy.
When to call the doctor?
Consult your doctor if you:
- Think you're rapidly gaining or losing too much weight
- Have an eating disorder
- Are losing weight during the last two trimesters
- Need help setting a good pregnancy diet to promote healthy weight gain
Gaining too much or too little weight during pregnancy can cause various health risks for you and your baby, both during and after pregnancy. Therefore, determine your personal weight gain goal by calculating your BMI and knowing your weight category before pregnancy.
Now that you also know how much weight a pregnant woman should gain based on her BMI before pregnancy, make sure you keep to the recommended calorie intake every trimester for a healthy, risk-free pregnancy. Maintaining healthy weight gain during pregnancy is possible if you stick to a well-balanced diet and indulge in moderate exercise. If you still have some confusion, speak to your doctor about how you can achieve and maintain the recommended weight gain during pregnancy.