The amount of weight you gain – or DON’T gain – in pregnancy can have several short and long-term health effects for you and your baby.
Excessive weight gain is associated with larger birth weight, which can lead to Cesarean delivery or operative vaginal delivery (forceps or vacuum), shoulder dystocia with possible injury to your baby, low blood sugar after your baby is born and higher incidence of childhood obesity and metabolic syndrome (likely increased risk of diabetes).
Too much weight gain isn’t healthy, but less isn’t always more. Babies need nutrients in order to grow. Insufficient weight gain can be associated with smaller birth weight, which can lead to preterm delivery, low blood sugar after baby is born and an increased risk of perinatal mortality.
Where does that extra weight go, anyway? You may think it’s all going to your belly, but in reality, it’s distributed to other areas as well.
If you gain about 30 pounds, here’s the average breakdown of where that extra weight goes:
- Baby: 7.5 pounds
- Placenta: 1.5 pounds
- Amniotic fluid: 2 pounds
- Uterine enlargement: 2 pounds
- Maternal breast tissue: 2 pounds
- Maternal blood volume: 4 pounds
- Fluids in maternal tissue: 4 pounds
- Maternal fat stores: 7 pounds
So how much weight should you gain? That depends on how much you weigh before pregnancy.
Here are the recommendations:
- Underweight, gain 28 to 40 pounds
- Healthy weight, gain 25 to 35 pounds
- Overweight, gain 15 to 25 pounds
- Obese, gain 11 to 20 pounds
You can also talk with your provider to determine your body mass index (BMI). That will help you know how much weight gain is appropriate for you and your baby.
To help you stay at a healthy weight while pregnant, follow these tips:
- Try not to eat more than 350 to 450 more calories a day. Focus on healthy fare, including lots of fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy foods. Select foods that are high in nutrients, compared to calories.
- Stay active. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity every day, unless instructed otherwise by your provider. Good options include brisk walking and swimming.
- Check your weight often. It will help you keep track of your weight gain. You can then make changes in your diet and activity level if needed.
- See your health care provider for all prenatal visits.
- Your OB/GYN can also provide you with an individualized goal for weight gain during pregnancy based on your pre-pregnancy weight.
Most importantly, your provider is available to answer any questions you may have around your weight while pregnant and can offer advice and support to ensure you and baby stay healthy during pregnancy and after.