Pregnancy and Weight Gain: How Much is Too Much?

As if the hormone and lifestyle changes weren’t enough to deal with, pregnancy also means confronting the number one body image problem facing women today: weight gain. We all know women will gain weight during pregnancy, but how much is too much? And what can women do to keep their bodies healthy for themselves and their baby without packing on unnecessary pounds?

How Much Should a Woman Expect to Gain During Pregnancy?
How much weight you should expect to gain during pregnancy varies depending on your weight prior to conception. For pregnant women who are of a normal weight before pregnancy, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends gaining anywhere from 25-35 pounds. Those who are underweight may gain up to 40 pounds, while those who are overweight should gain a maximum of 25 pounds. If you have been diagnosed as clinically obese, then it is recommended you gain no more than 15 pounds during pregnancy.

If you are carrying twins or multiple babies, however, the amount of recommended weight gain increases to more than 45 pounds, depending on your pre-pregnancy weight and the number of babies you are carrying.

In general, you will probably only gain about 5 pounds during your first trimester. After that, you can expect a steady weight gain of about 1-2 pounds a week right up until the birth your baby.

Of course, how much weight you gain and how often may vary for a variety of reasons. Being in regular contact with your doctor during pregnancy will help you to be sure what amount is right for you.

What is the Weight Made Up Of?
On average, the weight gained during pregnancy can be accounted for by following:

  • Your baby: 6-8 pounds (by the end of the pregnancy)
  • The placenta: 1.5 pounds
  • Increased fluid volume: 2-3 pounds
  • Uterus: 2 pounds
  • Increased storage of maternal fats, proteins and other nutrients: 4-6 pounds
  • Breast enlargement: 1-2 pounds
  • Blood volume: 3-4 pounds
  • Amniotic fluid: 2 pounds

Can Complications Arise from too Little or too Much Weight Gain?
Women who are underweight before pregnancy need to be extra careful about gaining weight. Being underweight could result in a premature birth and/or the low-birth weight of your baby.

If you are overweight before pregnancy, it is important to note that even though the amount of weight you are recommended to gain is lower than that of women of a normal weight, you still have to gain weight. Pregnancy is no time for dieting. Without the necessary amount of weight gain, your body will be unable to store the amount of fat required to carry your pregnancy to term.

That said, a greater than normal amount of weight gain during pregnancy should also be cautioned against, as this may lead to obesity after childbirth, which could lead to a whole host of other health problems.

How can I Prevent Unnecessary Weight Gain?
While the right amount of weight gain is essential to a healthy pregnancy, there are better ways than others in which to acquire the extra pounds. A healthy diet full of whole grains, fruits and vegetables as well as lean proteins and dairy products will help you and your baby get the nutrients you need. It is also recommended that you take a prenatal supplement to account for the necessary vitamins and minerals not included in your daily diet. Talk to your doctor about the healthy diet that’s right for you.

Most importantly, remember: you are carrying a life inside you! Pregnancy weight gain should be viewed as a positive sign that your pregnancy is carrying along normally.

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