Though weight gain otherwise would bother a woman, during pregnancy it is inevitable and something to rather look forward to.  This is because a normal and healthy weight gain during pregnancy is an indication of a healthy developing baby.

Just gaining weight is not enough; gaining it the right way is essential, which simply means the right amount of kilos within the right timeline.

A healthy pregnancy weight gain can be accomplished by eating healthy and inculcating healthy lifestyle habits to meet your and your baby’s nutritional and calorie requirement.

During pregnancy, you require 300 calories more every day than you did before you were pregnant.

This post acts as a guide and explains the recommended guidelines about pregnancy weight gain so that, you will have a clear idea whether you are putting on a healthy weight gain as per the timeline required, trimester by trimester and month by month.

It is important that you gain weight at a steady pace. Report any sudden change in weight to your obstetrician. During pregnancy, you should bloom and not balloon or shrivel.

Importance of gaining weight in pregnancy

With your baby developing inside your womb, it is obvious that it is deriving nutrition from you. As the fetus (baby) grows, it puts on weight, which is going to reflect on your weighing scale. So your weight gain also reflects on the weight being gained by the fetus.

Secondly, there are other tissues of the pregnant woman, which also develop to accommodate the growing pregnancy such as the uterus and the placenta, which add to your weight.

Thirdly, your extra nutritional need is also required to build up stores for your breastfeeding days. The fulfillment of all these requirements is reflected by your healthy weight gain.

Therefore, at every visit during your pregnancy period to your obstetrician, you are first weighed before the rest of the consultation begins.

How much weight should you gain during pregnancy by trimester?

The timeline of the weight gain during the course of your pregnancy depends largely on the status of your weight before your pregnancy.

For example, it will depend on whether you were of normal weight or underweight, or overweight before the onset of your pregnancy.

Here are the new guidelines recommended by The Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2009 that offer recommendations on the healthy way to put on weight when pregnant.

If you are at a healthy weight before pregnancy

If you were a healthy weight before becoming pregnant with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9, then your total weight gain over the pregnancy period should be 25 to 35 pounds (11.3 to 15.9 kilos).

Breakdown by trimester

  • Three to five pounds during the first trimester
  • About one to two pounds per week in the second trimester
  • Approximately one to two pounds per week in the third trimester

If you were underweight before pregnancy

If you were underweight with a BMI of less than 18.5 then your weight gain should be 28 to 40 pounds (12.7 to 18 kilos) during pregnancy in the following fashion:

Breakdown by trimester

  • Five to six pounds, or perhaps a little more, in your first trimester
  • One to two pounds per week in the second and third trimesters

If you were overweight

If you were overweight before pregnancy with a BMI of 25 to 29, then your weight gain should be 15 to 25 pounds (6.8 to 11.3 kilos) in the following way:

Breakdown by trimester

  • Approximately one to two pounds in the first trimester
  • Approximately one pound per week during the last six months or during the second and third trimesters

Accordingly, you can track what your healthy pregnancy weight gain should be at 16 weeks or 26 or 30 weeks, or even by months.

Being obese before pregnancy

If you were obese with a BMI of more than 30, your weight gain should be 11 to 20 pounds (5 to 9 kilos). In a pregnant woman with a BMI of 40 or more (extremely obese), modest weight loss is recommended. Obesity during pregnancy carries health risks. It is best to stay at a healthy weight before you become pregnant.

If you are overweight or underweight, it is better to achieve the proper weight (BMI) before planning a pregnancy. Your doctor and dietitian will help you in this regard.

Weight gain in case of twins

If you are carrying twins, you will need 3000 to 3500 calorie intake per day.

  • For a healthy-weight woman, in the case of multiple pregnancies (twins), your steady weight gain during the pregnancy period should be 40 to 50 pounds (18 to 22.5 kgs).
  • Overweight women should aim for a weight gain of 30 to 50 pounds (13.6 to 22.5 kilos).
  • Obese and pregnant women should gain 25 to 42 pounds ( 11.3 to 19 kilos).

The above figures are approximate and a little variation can be expected. However, if you suddenly gain or lose weight, you should see your doctor because it could be a sign of a pregnancy complication such as pre-eclampsia.

How is pregnancy weight gain distributed?

In a pregnant woman of healthy weight, the following is the approximate breakdown of how the extra weight gained is distributed between the baby and the woman’s body for a woman of healthy weight before pregnancy.

  • Baby: 7 to 8 pounds (3 to 3.6 kilograms)
  • Larger mother’s breast tissue: 2 pounds (1 kg)
  • Larger uterus:  2 pounds (I kg)
  • Placenta: 1.5 pounds (0.7 kgs)
  • Amniotic fluid:  2 pounds ( 1 kg)
  • Increased blood volume:  3 to 4 pounds (1.4 to 1.8 kgs)
  • Increased fluid volume:  3 to 4 pounds ( 1.4 to 1.8 kgs).
  • Fat stores:  6 to 8 pounds (2.7 to 3.6 kgs)

Risks of being underweight during pregnancy

It is possible that you may not gain the necessary weight during the first trimester due to morning sickness. But, fortunately, the need of the baby at this time for calories and nutrients is less, but you should try to attain the weight gain as recommended above.

Staying underweight carries the following risks for the baby:

  • Premature delivery
  • Low birth-weight baby
  • A malnourished baby is small for its gestational age. This happens when there has been less than 20 pounds of weight gain during pregnancy.

Risks of being overweight during pregnancy

Going overboard with weight during pregnancy carries certain risks to your health and the health of the baby.

Being overweight and obese normally carries risks of the mother developing heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, and more. And these conditions can cause a lot of health issues more so in a pregnant woman and the developing baby.

Risks to the baby

  • Miscarriage, stillbirth (death of the fetus before delivery)
  • Birth defects
  • Obesity of the child either in childhood or later in life

Risks to the mother

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Pre-eclampsia is a medical condition that usually develops during the later half of pregnancy and is characterized by high blood pressure, the presence of high-level protein in the urine, and swelling of feet and hands. This is a dangerous condition that can lead to eclampsia, which can cause the death of the baby and mother if left untreated.
  • Should surgery be required to deliver the child, risks of anesthesia and postoperative complications increase.
  • Varicose veins
  • Increased fatigue

How to gain a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy?

According to the American College of obstetrician and Gynecologists, pregnant women should increase their usual servings of a variety of foods from five basic food groups to include the following:

  • Three to four servings of fruits and vegetables
  • Nine servings of whole-grain or enriched bread, cereal, rice, or pasta for energy
  • Three servings of milk, yogurt, and cheese for calcium
  • Three servings of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, dried beans, and peas for protein
  • Eat five to six small meals per day instead of three large ones.
  • Exercise as recommended

The following links will take you to posts that explain just what you should eat and avoid during your pregnancy.