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What is a Healthy Pregnancy Weight Gain?

By Published On: February 17th, 2012

Although most women do not like the idea one little bit, pregnancy weight gain is an essential part of a happy, healthy pregnancy. Eating for two is not an excuse to eat like a horse though and monitoring and controlling pregnancy weight gain – and weight loss in some cases – is important for your health, your baby’s health and your chances of shedding those postpartum pounds more easily.

Pregnancy Weight Gain – Some Basic Guidelines

The one thing that it is very important to realise is that there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” pregnancy weight gain amount that can be considered healthy. How much weight you should gain will depend on a number of factors: your pre pregnancy weight, your body mass index before you became pregnant and your overall health.

There are however some widely accepted general pregnancy weight guidelines that most medical practitioners advise be followed:

Weight Before Pregnancy

Approximate Recommended Weight Gain

Underweight, with a BMI of less than 18.5

Between 28 and 40 lbs (13 to 18 kgs)

Normal Weight with a BMI of 18.5-24.9

Between 25 and 35 lbs (11 to 16 kgs)

Overweight with a BMI of 25 – 29.9

Between 15 and 25 lbs ( 7 to 11 kgs)

Obese with a BMI of over 30

Between 11 and 20lbs ( 5 to 9kgs)

Pregnancy Weight Gain when You are Underweight

If you are underweight when you become pregnant it is truly essential that you gain the amount of weight that your medical practitioner recommends. Remaining underweight during your pregnancy can lead to a low weight baby or even to a baby born prematurely.

Pregnancy Weight Gain when You are Overweight

Being over weight while pregnant carries its risks of complications, most especially gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Some weight gain is still needed though but years of research all over the world has determined that overweight Mums to be can safely gain less weight over the course of their pregnancy than women who are a ‘normal” weight or underweight. The key to a healthy weight gain in these cases is working with, and listening to, the recommendations of your doctor or midwife, not following what another Mum might have been told or some recommendation you read someplace because you are a unique person with your own unique needs.

Where Does All that Weight Go?

Many Mums to be have a very reasonable question about pregnancy weight gain – if the baby I give birth to is only 7-8 pounds (the average) then why am I being told to gain 25? To answer that question this is how the average healthy pregnancy weight gain actually breaks down:

Size of the baby: 7-8 lbs (3-3.5 kgs)

Enlarged breasts; Around 2 lbs (1 kg)

Enlarged uterus: Around 2 lbs (1 kg)

Placenta: Around 11/2 lbs (0.7kg)

Amniotic fluid; Around 2lbs (1kg)

An increased blood volume: 3-4 lbs (1.4-1.8 kgs)

An increased fluid volume: 3-4 lbs (1.4-1.8kgs)

Fat stores: 6 to 8 lbs (2.7-3.6 kgs)

As you can see much of this weight gain has nothing to do with being “fat”. Even the fat stores are essential and your body will fight to maintain them during the pregnancy as it would break them down to provide energy for the growing baby if they are not getting enough from the mother.

Weight Gain by Trimester

For a healthy start to your pregnancy not too much weight gain is required, which for many expectant Mums is a good thing, as morning sickness puts them off eating very much in the first place a lot of the time. a few pounds is all that is recommended, four is usual or two kilograms. This you can do easily just by adding an extra 200 calories a day to your diet, which is equal to just a pot of yogurt or a couple of pieces of toast, both of which nauseous Mums to be can usually manage to face even if most other foods are turning their tummies.

Regular steady weight gain is more important in the second and third trimesters though. If you began at a normal weight 3-4 lbs a month (1.41-1.8kgs) is the healthy average, which can usually be achieved by adding just 300 calories a day to your pre pregnancy calorie count. If you were underweight when you became pregnant, or were quite overweight your medical practitioner will be able to advise you the rate of weight gain that is healthy for you at this point.

What Should be on the Menu

Gaining the recommended amount of weight during your pregnancy is easy if you just up the amount of junk food you eat but doing so is of course bad for you and bad for baby. avoiding overeating and making sure that the foods you do eat are healthy choices is far more important. Adding 300 calories a day in the form of healthy foods is not hard.

Listen to Your Health Care Providers

One of the most important things to so throughout your pregnancy is listen to the advice that your health care providers give you and then actually follow it. If your doctor expresses a concern about your weight gain during your pregnancy it is not to make you “feel bad” or to offend you, whether their concern is too much weight gain or too little. They are just trying to do their job – trying to ensure you have the healthiest, happiest pregnancy possible.