Eating When Over or Under Weight

Weight gain during pregnancy helps your baby grow. Gaining weight at a steady rate within recommended boundaries can also lower your chance of having hemorrhoids, varicose veins, stretch marks, backache, fatigue, indigestion, and shortness of breath during pregnancy.

Why is weight gain important during pregnancy?

The extra weight you gain during pregnancy provides nourishment to your developing baby and is also stored for breastfeeding your baby after delivery.

Where does all the extra weight go?

Here is an approximate breakdown of your weight gain:

  • Baby = 7-8 pounds
  • Placenta = 1-2 pounds
  • Amniotic fluid = 2 pounds
  • Uterus = 2 pounds
  • Maternal breast tissue = 2 pounds
  • Maternal blood = 4 pounds
  • Fluids in maternal tissue = 4 pounds
  • Maternal fat and nutrient stores = 7 pounds

How much total weight should I gain?

The amount of weight you should gain depends on your weight before pregnancy. You should gain:

  • 25-37 pounds: If you were a healthy weight before pregnancy
  • 28-40 pounds: If you were underweight before pregnancy
  • 15-25 pounds: If you were overweight before pregnancy

At what rate should I gain weight during my pregnancy?

How much you should gain depends on your weight before you were pregnant and how far along you are in your pregnancy.

  • Healthy Weight Before Pregnancy:
    • 3-5 pounds during the first trimester
    • Approximately 1-2 pounds per week in the second trimester
    • Approximately 1-2 pounds per week in the third trimester
  • Underweight Before Pregnancy:
    • 5-6 pounds or more in your first trimester; this also can depend on how underweight you were before pregnancy & your health care provider’s recommendations
    • 1-2 pounds per week in the second and third trimesters
  • Overweight Before Pregnancy:
    • Approximately 1-2 pounds in the first trimester
    • Approximately 1 pound per week during the last six months

The goal is to keep weight gain as steady as possible because your baby requires a daily supply of nutrients throughout your pregnancy that comes from what you eat. It is okay for your weight gain to fluctuate a little from week to week. However, you should contact your health care provider if you suddenly gain or lose weight, especially in your third trimester. This could be a sign of preeclampsia.

What if I am carrying twins?

If you are pregnant with twins, your appropriate weight gain should be monitored by your health care provider. Weight gain should increase significantly (35-45 pounds) but will not double.

Does being underweight pose any risks to me or my baby?

Due to morning sickness, many women have trouble gaining weight in the first trimester and worry about what effects this has on their baby’s development. Some women lose a little weight in the beginning of their pregnancy. Fortunately, at this time the baby does not need as many calories and nutrients as later in pregnancy. It is important to gain weight at a steady pace throughout pregnancy. If a woman does not gain weight throughout pregnancy, complications such as a low-birth weight infant or premature delivery could occur. Babies who are born to mothers who do not gain more than 20 pounds are often considered small for gestational age (SGA), meaning they may have been malnourished during pregnancy.

Healthy Eating During Pregnancy:

A sensible meal plan that is rich in vitamins and minerals are essential for a developing baby. You may want to ask your health care provider for food recommendations or seek the help of a nutritionist in your area.

Women who are underweight during pregnancy tend to eat low-calorie foods and not enough protein. The following are ways to get more calories:

  • Eat breakfast every day. Peanut butter or a slice of cheese on toast can give you an extra protein boost.
  • Snack between meals; yogurt and dried fruits can provide protein, calcium, and minerals.
  • Try to eat more foods that are high in good fats such as nuts, fatty fish, avocados, and olive oil.
  • Drink juices that are high in vitamin C or beta carotene, such as grapefruit juice, orange juice, papaya nectar, apricot nectar, and carrot juice.
  • Avoid junk food
  • Consult your health care provider about taking prenatal vitamins

Can gaining too much weight be harmful?

The following are potential problems with gaining too much weight:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Backaches
  • Leg pain
  • Increased fatigue
  • Varicose veins
  • Increased risk of Cesarean delivery
  • Hight blood pressure

How does being obese affect my pregnancy?

Most overweight women have healthy pregnancies and deliver without complications.

However, it is important to be aware of the potential risks that extra weight can have. Pregnant women who are struggling with obesity may have:

  • An increased risk for gestational diabetes and high blood pressure
  • Difficulty with hearing the heartbeat and measuring the size of the uterus
  • Difficulty with vaginal delivery if the fetus is much larger than average

Fortunately, appropriate medical and self care can lower the risks of these complications. Your health care provider may suggest that more tests be done during pregnancy. These might include ultrasounds to measure your baby’s size, glucose tolerance test to screen for gestational diabetes, and other diagnostic tests later in pregnancy to monitor your baby’s development.

The following self care tips are ways you can make your pregnancy a healthy one for you and your baby:

  • Avoid pregnancy risks such as alcohol and smoking
  • Try not to gain too much weight; your health care provider will provide recommended weight gain
  • Be selective about your food choices; choose food sources that contain vitamins, minerals, and protein
Last Updated: 09/2008

Leave a Reply