The amount of weight gained during pregnancy is associated with health outcomes for both mom and baby. Following the recommended ranges of weight gain has been shown to decrease certain risks during labor, postpartum, and early childhood for the newborn.
Why does weight gain during pregnancy matter?
Weight gain during pregnancy is an important indicator of health outcomes. Too much weight gain increases the risk of needing a Caesarean section, preterm birth, having a baby with excess fat, and retaining weight after birth . On the other hand, too little weight gain can also cause early delivery and stunted fetal growth .
During pregnancy, it can feel like weight changes are out of your control due to cravings, nausea, or sudden increase and loss of appetite. With proper nutrition, our bodies can balance the perfect weight gain over the course of a pregnancy. However, due to our modern lifestyles, there has been a rise in the overall weight of our population and the weight gain during pregnancies has trended upwards also.
Being aware of what is normal and what to expect in terms of weight gain is a great start to maintaining a healthy body for yourself and your baby.
How much weight should I gain during pregnancy?
Recommendations vary depending on your weight prior to getting pregnant. Depending on your body mass index (BMI), you may need to gain more or less weight. The table below provides recommendations for total and weekly weight gain during pregnancy from the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) :
|Weight Category||BMI||Total Weight Gain||Weekly Weight Gain
(2nd & 3rd trimesters)
|Underweight||Below 18.5||28 - 40 lb||1 lb|
|Normal weight||18.5 - 24.9||25 - 35 lb||1 lb|
|Overweight||25.0 - 29.9||15 - 25 lb||0.6 lb|
|Obese||30.0 and Above||11 - 20 lb||0.5 lb|
This is the same guideline used by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and is generally accepted by healthcare professionals in the US and Canada.
Does it matter if I gain a lot of weight at first?
Yes, it matters. The more you gain initially, the harder it will be to control total weight over the course of your pregnancy. That is why the table above does not include the first trimester in the recommended weekly rate.
Weight gain during pregnancy should be slow and gradual. Weight gain the first trimester is mostly related to increased blood volume, breast size, and fluids. Regardless of BMI, weight gain in the first trimester should be around 5 pounds or less .
For example, if you gain 5 pounds in the first 12 weeks and 1 pound each week of the second and third trimester, you would have a total weight gain of 33 pounds – which is perfectly in range if you are starting at a normal BMI.
What if I don’t gain weight in this steady way?
Don’t worry, no one does. These are guidelines to help assess if you are on track over the long term. One week you may gain 2 pounds, the next week you may even lose weight. The details don’t matter as much as the overall average.
Avoid weighing yourself if it causes extra stress, but if you are curious, keep track of your weight weekly and check the general trend. Your health care provider should be weighing you at each appointment and providing feedback as well.
How can I make sure I don’t gain too much weight?
The best thing you can do is to limit excessive weight gain in the first trimester. The (false) idea of “eating for two” can become a pass to binge on foods that you may have been restricting previously. Don’t fall for this, if anything, you should be selecting healthier options now that you are pregnant.
Nourish your body and the development of your baby with unprocessed plant foods. Hydration and movement also contribute to a healthy and steady weight gain.
- Weight gain during pregnancy is an important indicator of health outcomes for mama and baby.
- Suggested weight gain during pregnancy depends on your starting BMI prior to getting pregnant.
- Refer to the chart above for the recommended ranges. In general, the lighter you are, the more weight you should gain during pregnancy. The heavier you are, the less weight you should gain.