How Much Weight Gain is Normal When You're Pregnant?

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pregnant woman digging into a deep bowl with a spoon

Can you eat whatever you want – and however much you want – when you’re pregnant? After all, you’re eating for two, right?

But being pregnant is not a reason to ignore healthy eating habits, such as eating the right foods in the right quantities and minimizing fast food, fried food and sodas, says OB/GYN Samir Ahuja, MD, director of gynecologic services at UH Geauga Medical Center..

If your weight is within normal body mass index (BMI) range, you should keep your weight gain to about 30 to 35 pounds, he says. If your weight is above the normal BMI range, it’s best to keep your weight gain to less than 30 pounds.

“That is not easy,” Dr. Ahuja says. “I tell patients that the effort they make before pregnancy, early in the pregnancy and during pregnancy to limit weight gain is going to make a huge difference in the outcomes for them and their baby.”

Limiting weight gain reduces the risk of gestational diabetes and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy such as preeclampsia. Obesity also is a risk factor for giving birth by caesarian section, which, although a common procedure, is considered riskier for mom and baby than a vaginal birth.

“Weight gain in pregnancy is probably the No. 1 controllable factor that a patient can take action toward minimizing their risks, improving how they feel in pregnancy and improving their outcomes,” he says.

Advantages of Keeping Your Weight Down

While it may be tempting to indulge with food during pregnancy, there are definite advantages to keeping weight gain within certain limits, Dr. Ahuja says. Physical comfort, for one thing.

“Women who limit weight gain will feel so much better in the third trimester,” he says. “During those last eight to 12 weeks, the mother begins to feel the effects of ligament stretching, the uterus growing, the baby moving and not being able to sleep. If you've put on 40 pounds, and you still have 10 weeks to go, you can be sure you're going to be much more uncomfortable.”

Also, Dr. Ahuja says, women who take better care of themselves and their overall health – meaning they exercise, watch their weight and eat right – do better during labor.

If you have gained weight, after your baby is born you’re still at risk for disorders such as hypertension, or blood clots in the legs and lungs. These risks are compounded with day-to-day challenges of sleepless nights or difficulty finding time or energy to get exercise or prepare healthy meals.

“We know women are tough on themselves,” Dr. Ahuja says. “So when they come in for that six-week postpartum visit, if their weight isn't trending back to where it was before pregnancy, I think that definitely plays a role in how they do in terms of depression and moods and self-image. If you’ve put on 40 or 60 pounds, that postpartum period can be very difficult.”

What You Should Do

Dr. Ahuja tells his patient that being pregnant is probably going to be the most important event in their life and they should think about it as starting a training regimen that will span the next eight or nine months.

“This pregnancy is a training for them to be in the best shape and best health that they can be in,” he says. “Ideally, before pregnancy, you want to get your body mass index or weight down, but definitely during pregnancy, especially when you know that every action you take is going to affect your pregnancy and your baby.”

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University Hospitals is a trusted resource for many expectant parents in communities across Northeast Ohio. Our experienced team uses the latest evidence-based childbirth practices, providing personalized, family-centered delivery services tailored to your unique needs. Learn more about pregnancy and childbirth services at University Hospitals.

 

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