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Suggested Weight Gain for a Healthy Pregnancy

Updated on March 14, 2014
Suggested Weight Gain for a Healthy Pregnancy
Suggested Weight Gain for a Healthy Pregnancy | Source

So there's this crazy idea that once a woman finds out that she's pregnant, not only can she start eating twice as much, but should. In fact, it's encouraged, because she is after all "eating for two" now.

However this statement is very misunderstood. Yes, you are growing a human being inside you now, and you may need a small amount of additional calories to keep up with what your body is burning, but developing bad habits now can cause you more problems later.

Overeating and overindulging now, because you think it's okay, can cause unneeded strain and stress on your body now, and extra weight that will be harder to lose after the baby is born. However, the same goes for not eating enough. Because not getting the nutrients you and your growing baby need will not only cause you problems, but can cause birth defects in your little one.

A healthy diet rich in the necessary nutrients for growing a baby is essential also for your health and the health of your pregnancy. This is why doctor's have a recommended weight gain for women during pregnancy. Because too much and too little can cause birth defects, gestational diabetes, preterm labor, premature babies, and a host of other problems that can be hard, if not impossible to recover from.

To know how much is okay to eat, it's important to consider how much weight is appropriate for you to gain during a healthy pregnancy.

General Guidelines for Pregnancy Weight Gain
General Guidelines for Pregnancy Weight Gain | Source

How Much Weight Should You Gain

It's reasonable that you will be eating more than usual as your pregnancy progresses. In fact, at only two months pregnant myself right now, I'm already eating a great deal more than I normally would, but every morning I'm back to my normal weight.

There's a great deal going on inside your body during this time. In fact, one book I've read says that a pregnant woman at rest is working harder than a non-pregnant woman mountain climbing. And it's inevitable that you'll be gaining weight.

But how much is enough?

For a woman at a normal healthy weight (with a normal BMI) before pregnancy, she should gain about 30 pounds during the course of her pregnancy.

For those women considered underweight (with a below average BMI) before pregnancy, they are recommended to gain more like 35 pounds. For those women considered overweight (with an above average BMI), it's only 25 pounds.

And if you're in an even higher weight class, and considered obese before pregnancy, the limit drops yet another 5 pounds to only 20 pounds.

The reasoning behind these numbers is simply to make sure that both you and your baby have a safe and healthy pregnancy, all the while getting the nutrients you need.

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How to Gain the Right Amount of Weight

The trick to gaining exactly the amount of weight you should be gaining for your height and weight is easy. Simply eat a healthy diet, consume a consistent amount of food every day, and get regular but moderate exercise 2-3 times a week.

This may sound easier to say than to do. Eating during pregnancy is all about consuming the right foods in the right amounts. The experts may advise that you gain anywhere from 25 to 40 pounds during your pregnancy, depending on your prepregnancy weight, but this is not something you should be trying to do yourself.

Strangely enough, your body is already preprogrammed to do this on it's own. From before I even knew I was pregnant my body craved twice as much food as normal to satisfy it.

I was alarmed at first because the very first night I weighed myself I had gained 6 pounds in one day! Then a funny thing happened. It was all gone by morning and I was back to normal.

Since then the hunger, and now cravings, have not abated, but my body has gotten used to the extra food, returning to my original weight every morning.

I was wondering how I'm possibly going to gain the weight I'm supposed to if the extra food I'm already eating isn't doing it. Lol There's no way I could eat more without exploding.

But I just learned this morning that, closing in on the end of your first trimester, where I am now, your metabolism naturally starts slowing down, and begins to hold on to more of the calories you're already consuming. Whew!

There is no need for me to change anything. It's really nice to know that my body is going to take care of gaining the weight I need all on it's own. I didn't like the pressure that believing that I had to eat more put on me.

Even though you're not going to have to worry about eating enough to gain the extra weight though, you'll still want to monitor that you're not eating too much. Can you imagine what will happen if your metabolism slows down and you're eating twice as much to gain weight?

Suggested Weight Gain for a Healthy Pregnancy
Suggested Weight Gain for a Healthy Pregnancy | Source

What If You Gain Too Much Weight

Whether you're pregnant or not, eating and staying healthy is always about keeping everything in perspective and eating your favorite items in moderation.

Before getting pregnant, I weighed 138 pounds. I ate a healthy diet, I moderately exercised taking my puppies on an hour walk or so every other day, and I monitored my food intake.

In fact, when I first met my husband, I started gaining a great deal of weight and didn't know why. By paying close attention I noticed that he was a slow eater, so as long as he was still eating, so did I. That was a bad idea. I was no longer paying attention to my body and was overeating.

By eating my meals off of a salad plate from then on out, and not going back for seconds, I quickly returned to my ideal weight. The same thing happened around my wedding, except I learned that by drinking more water and cutting back on the sweet tea I was drinking, the weight once again fell off. I was 132 pounds when we were married.

Pregnancy is no different. Your body knows what kind of food it needs and how much it needs. If you are willing to pay attention to it, it will tell you what you need to know.

Make sure to make healthy choices when you get hungry. Pay attention to your body. It will let you know when you are full. There's nothing that says you can't go get another snack in a couple more hours if you still feel hungry.

If you are gaining more weight than recommended, consider these things. What kind of food choices are you making? What do your portions look like? And you can even consider where you might be getting extra sugar or calories that you might not need.

Did you eat the entire bag of Cheetos instead of just a small handful? Did you really need the whole pizza or that extra glass of sweet tea? Cut back in small ways until you see the weight coming off.
It's also important that you are getting the exercise you need, even if that means a walk around the neighborhood, or a nice yoga class for pregnancy 2-3 times a week.

The same rules apply here that would apply if you weren't pregnant. Healthy food choices, appropriate food portions, and regular exercise will help you to keep your weight where it belongs. But what if your concern is not getting enough calories?

What If You Don’t Gain Enough

Most women do not have this problem, but there is the same risk to your baby not gaining enough weight as there is by gaining too much. The weight you are supposed to gain during pregnancy is not just a recommendation but very necessary for you and your baby to be healthy throughout your pregnancy.

Although, there is one point in your pregnancy where this won't be so critical. As morning sickness is very prevalent in the first trimester, many women also see some weight loss during this time.

As long as your body catches up the rest of your pregnancy, there is no danger to you or your infant. However if you're still pretty far behind in your second, and especially your third trimester, you may need to take extra steps to help your body along.

Consider just adding more calorie-rich foods to your regular meals like avocados, nuts, and cheeses. Plan on a simple snack between meals, at least 2-3 times a day. You could have some granola, guacamole or hummus with whole wheat tortillas, trail mix, or even some fruit with peanut butter.

Can't stand thinking about eating more? I completely understand. Sometimes I think I'm going to burst. Consider instead making some yummy smoothies with wheat germ or protein powder. This way it won't feel like you're eating more, but you're still getting the extra good calories you need for you and your growing baby.

If this still doesn't work, think about where you might be burning critical calories, or what you might be eating that could be providing you little to no quality nutrients.

Obviously you should cut out sodas, but consider also nixing big leafy iceberg salads, subbing in one with more nutrients instead like adding fresh spinach, romaine or kale, or by making it an egg salad or chicken salad.

Even though exercising is important during pregnancy, if you are still keeping up that hefty running schedule, or have a vigorous workout routine, consider toning it down for something not quite so hard-core. Pregnancy is not the time to watch your figure and lose weight. Your health and that of your baby is more important than your waistline at this point.

Where Does All the Weight Go?
Where Does All the Weight Go? | Source

How Quickly Does the Weight Go Away After Delivery

This really depends on the woman, how much weight you're trying to lose, and whether or not you're breastfeeding. Ideally 10-15 pounds should come off right away as this is all baby and placenta weight.

If you're breastfeeding, you'll obviously still be eating more than normal to make up for the calories you'll be losing in your breast milk. On average, breastfeeding burns about 500 calories a day, which is roughly the amount of extra calories, if not more, than what you are consuming.

Breastfeeding women tend to lose weight more quickly than women who do not. But if you're not breastfeeding, no worries. With a healthy diet and regular exercise, just like when you were pregnant, you're body will naturally return to normal in time.

On average, women are recommended to gain about 30 extra pounds while pregnant. With half of that disappearing just after delivery, that only leaves you with roughly 15 more pounds to lose. With your body naturally losing weight at 1-2 pounds a week, you can expect to be back to normal within 6-7 weeks at best, around 15 weeks at most.

2-4 months is the average for most women to return to their prepregnancy weight. But this means you still have to be watching the kinds of foods you are eating, making sure to stay on a healthy diet, watching your food portions, and maintaining a regular exercise schedule, even if just moderate, 2-3 times per week.

For those considering getting pregnant again soon after, these tips are still the same if you are going to have a healthy next pregnancy. You certainly don't want to bring extra weight into a new pregnancy.

Gaining weight is not only inevitable during pregnancy, but it is healthy and necessary. The trick is simply gaining the right amount of weight and the right kind of weight.

Many people have the misunderstanding that pregnancy is a free pass to eat anything you want for nine months, when in fact, doing just this can be harmful to your health and that of your growing infant during this fragile time.

If anything, pregnancy is the perfect time to integrate a variety of healthy foods and discover a new way to enjoy your meals. Cut out the caffeine and alcohol, drop the greasy, fatty fried foods and fast food, and learn how to use healthier ingredients to make delicious snacks and meals.

Add in a little moderate exercise and portion control, and you've got the perfect recipe for a healthy pregnancy, and the perfect amount of weight.

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© 2014 Victoria Van Ness

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I just dropped by to wish you a great weekend, Victoria. Nice job on this as always.

    • VVanNess profile image
      Author

      Victoria Van Ness 3 years ago from Prescott Valley

      Thank you! I appreciate the sentiment. :)

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Great article as to the importance of not overindulging and gaining too much weight during pregnancy. I did such after I was able to eat after about five months, then I went way overboard, and my ankles became swollen and I had toxemia, which is so dangerous. Had to stay off my feet for a bit and keep them elevated.

      Up and more and sharing

      Have a great weekend,

      Faith Reaper

    • VVanNess profile image
      Author

      Victoria Van Ness 3 years ago from Prescott Valley

      Exactly! :) I hope you're doing better now and have been able to get back to normal with no side effects. Thank you for your story and your insightful comments.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      When I was pregnant years ago, I gained 41 pounds and was a nice big girl haha, but the weight fell off and I was back to pre-pregnancy weight in 3 months. I just didn't worry about it and ate healthy stuff. Apparently a heck of a lot of it!

    • VVanNess profile image
      Author

      Victoria Van Ness 3 years ago from Prescott Valley

      Nice! That makes me feel better. I'm a little worried about this huge growth on the front of my body. lol I've never had a belly before!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is another interesting hub that will be very useful for pregnant women, Victoria!

    • VVanNess profile image
      Author

      Victoria Van Ness 3 years ago from Prescott Valley

      Thank you! It's great to learn such wonderful things during my pregnancy while writing these articles. I'm hoping that not only am I benefiting from the information shared, but so are so many other women! :) Thank you for your comments!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      When I was pregnant a while back I gained a good few kilos my cravings just went on.

    • VVanNess profile image
      Author

      Victoria Van Ness 3 years ago from Prescott Valley

      Lol Thank you for your comments!

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      I have had both extremes, lol. With my first I gained over 50 lbs... I think the last 2 months on bed rest, her being 10 lbs and 3 weeks overdue had something to do with it. But with my third, I was barely gaining anything. By my third trimester I'd lost weight, and they put me on this super diet that had me eating like every 2 hours, and I was sooooooooo sick of food! I felt like by the time I finished one thing it took me so long to choke down, I had to eat something else. And the darn Checker's commercial "You Gotta Eat" kept playing and taunting me, I will never forget that. I think I managed to get up to a 12 pound gain but he was 8.6 so it worked out all right. This is really good advice for pregnancy weight maintenance.

    • VVanNess profile image
      Author

      Victoria Van Ness 3 years ago from Prescott Valley

      Thanks for the great stories! I'm getting pretty sick of food myself, and I've only gained 3 pounds. I can't wait to truly start feeling better! :)

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      Congrats on being two months pregnant!!! Useful tips for ladies who have another life within to nurture !

    • VVanNess profile image
      Author

      Victoria Van Ness 2 years ago from Prescott Valley

      I'm actually 5 months along now and feeling the baby rolling and kicking every day. It's so amazing!

    • amiebutchko profile image

      Amie Butchko 2 years ago from Warwick, NY

      Very good article! I always worried about weight gain when I was pregnant and it does put a little stress on that beautiful time in your life, but the truth is, you really can't just go eating everything because you're pregnant! Although you need to get so many more nutrients, you don't necessarily need that many more calories (although definitely some more calories are needed - it's not as much as people tend to think!). Good luck to all pregnant woman. It is an important and sometimes challenging thing to go through, but so worth it in every way!

    • VVanNess profile image
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      Victoria Van Ness 2 years ago from Prescott Valley

      Thank you so much for the wonderful comment! I'm glad you enjoyed the article. :)

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