We’ve all heard the phrase “I’m eating for two.” Even though you’re eating for two, or three, the recommended weight gain during pregnancy is based on your height and weight. The two values together calculate a measure of body fat, which is called Body Mass Index (BMI). So it’s important to know your pre-pregnancy BMI to understand how much you should put on.
It’s easy to believe that you can eat anything when you are pregnant. Perhaps the craving for chili dogs or ice cream in the middle of the night is OK because “the baby wants it.” Depending on your BMI and the average distribution of pregnancy weight gain for a single or multiple gestation, women must be careful not to put on too much or too little. The amount of weight gain outside the normal recommendations may lead to complications. Getting the right amount and eating the right foods help support a healthy pregnancy.
Here is the average distribution of weight gain in pounds for a baby:
Baby = 7 ½
Placenta = 1 ½
Breasts = 2
Uterus = 2
Amniotic Fluid = 2
Blood Volume = 4
Fluid Volume = 4
Fats, Protein, Nutrients = 7
TOTAL POUNDS = 30
Most women don’t need to increase calories in the first trimester. According to the Institute of Medicine, women only need an extra 340 calories a day in the second trimester, and 452 calories a day in the third trimester. If you are having twins, then the recommendations for weight gain are a bit more.
Health care providers advise a steady weight gain for a healthy pregnancy outcome. Women who get more than the recommended amount may have a large baby, and are at higher risk of having a premature birth or cesarean section delivery. However, women who don’t put on enough weight may have a low birth weight or premature baby.
The chance of having pregnancy problems is higher for overweight and obese women. These women are at increased risk for health issues like gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, deep vein thrombosis, cardiac and respiratory complications, or death. The probability of a miscarriage and a recurrent miscarriage is more likely for an obese woman than a normal weight woman.
Babies of obese women are at higher risk for congenital abnormalities (neural tube defects, cardiac problems, cleft lip or cleft palate), macrosomia, or fetal death. Macrosomic babies are at danger for birth trauma like shoulder dystocia. Premature babies have an increased chance for lung and heart complications after delivery. Large babies are more likely to have obesity in childhood and as an adult with health issues.
Talk to your health care provider about managing your weight throughout the pregnancy. Eat healthy foods, exercise regularly (if not contraindicated), and go to your prenatal appointments to keep your pregnancy and weight on point.
Here are some helpful links and resources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Adult BMI calculator
Institute of Medicine Healthy weight gain during pregnancy
Baby Center Pregnancy weight tracker
March of Dimes Eating healthy during pregnancy
- Institute of Medicine
- American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
- American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
- American Pregnancy Association
- Mayo Clinic
- Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics, and Neonatal Nurses