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How much weight should I gain?

Weight gain is essential for a healthy pregnancy

Learning to eat well and manage your weight gain are key components to a healthy pregnancy. Weight gain helps your baby to grow and develop properly, and allows your body to make physical changes to support pregnancy, such as growth of your uterus, development of the placenta and an increase in blood volume. But how much weight is the right amount to gain? When determining a weight-gain range, some important things to consider are: your pre-pregnancy weight for height, commonly referred to as your Body Mass Index (BMI), your medical history, and whether you're carrying one baby, twins or multiples.

How much weight should I gain?

There is no set amount of weight gain that is right for everyone. Yet over time, some general guidelines have been accepted. For women carrying one baby, the first trimester is typically considered a time of minimal weight gain, regardless of your pre-pregnancy BMI. As you near the end of your first trimester, and begin the second, weight gain is expected to increase. Some providers like to see women with a "healthy" BMI prior to pregnancy, gain 10 pounds by 20 weeks. During the second and third trimester, guidelines often suggest gaining 1/2 to 1 pound per week. Whatever weight-gain range is determined to be right for you, try to gain the weight gradually. Below are some generally accepted total weight-gain guidelines based on pre-pregnancy BMI.

BMI below 19 prior to pregnancy

Of all categories, underweight women are at highest risk for delivering low birth-weight babies. If you were underweight before becoming pregnant, it's especially important to gain an adequate amount of weight during your pregnancy - 28 to 40 pounds is often recommended.

BMI of 19 to 25 prior to pregnancy

Your pregnancy is off to a healthy start if you're in the "recommended" BMI category. It's typically advised that you gain 25 to 35 pounds over the course of your pregnancy.

BMI of 25 to 30 prior to pregnancy

If you start your pregnancy in this BMI group, your weight gain range is slightly less, however, it's still important to gain weight to support a healthy pregnancy and provide your baby with adequate nourishment – 15 to 25 pounds is often recommended.

BMI above 30 prior to pregnancy

If your BMI is above 30 before you become pregnant, strive for a modest weight gain of 15 pounds – and remember that pregnancy is not a time to lose weight!

Pregnant with twins or multiples

Women who are pregnant with more than one baby typically need to gain additional weight to provide adequate nourishment for the babies. It's best to discuss your weight-gain range with your provider.

My baby only weighs 7 pounds – what makes up the rest?

Rest assured – it is not all fat. Most of the weight will go away gradually after delivery. Here's what you're carrying and approximately how it adds up:

  • Amniotic fluid and placenta: 4 pounds
  • Increase in blood and other fluids: 8 pounds
  • Fat reserves: 7 pounds
  • Enlarged uterus and breasts: 4 to 6 pounds

How do the calories add up?

You may have heard the saying, "you're eating for two." Although it is true that the food you eat is nourishing two, your calorie needs only increase by about 300 per day after the first trimester. So if your goal is a healthy weight gain, keep in mind that your calorie needs don't increase that much. Here are three examples of healthy food choices that add up to 300 calories:

  • Whole-wheat English muffin with two tablespoons peanut butter
  • One cup of yogurt with one cup fresh fruit
  • Bowl of high-fiber cereal with reduced-fat or skim milk

How will I lose the weight after delivery?

When you combine healthy eating with regular activity during your pregnancy, you'll feel better and shed those extra pounds easier once your baby is born. Gaining the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy can actually help you lose it more quickly afterward. If you're gaining at a faster rate, consult with your health care provider. Try these tips to increase activity and eat healthy during your pregnancy:

  • Park further away from buildings; use the stairs instead of elevators.
  • Avoid sitting for long periods of time – take short walk breaks.
  • Snack on yogurt, string cheese, fresh fruit, or whole-grains (like popcorn and high-fiber cereal) instead of chips, candy and high-fat desserts.
  • Eat regular meals and snacks.

In addition, women who choose to breastfeed may find it a bit easier to lose weight because of the extra calories (about 500 per day) it takes for their body to produce milk. However, the best approach to losing weight is always through healthy low-fat eating and regular moderate exercise.

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