How much Weight Should I Gain during Pregnancy?
Read time: 4 minutes
What to know about the importance of gaining weight during pregnancy
Why gaining the recommended amount of weight is important during pregnancy
When to increase your food intake and what types of food to eat
Understand the risks of gaining too much or too little weight and how to stay on a track
Gaining the recommended amount of weight in pregnancy is linked with positive benefits for both you and your baby. You are more likely to be well-nourished, your baby will be more likely to develop well and grow to an appropriate gestational size, and you’ll have an easier time carrying your baby to term and then returning to your pre-pregnancy weight.14
Learn More: Coping with A Fear of Weight Gain in Pregnancy
How much weight should you gain during pregnancy?
The recommendations for weight gain during pregnancy are based on your pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI).14 Should you want to, you can calculate your BMI by dividing your pre-pregnancy weight in kilograms by your height in meters, squared (or just use an online BMI calculator).2
Here are some general weight gain recommendations (note that BMI calculations offer helpful guidelines but are not perfect indicators so always talk with your health care provider about the best weight gain plan for you:314
Pre-pregnancy weight category
Recommended total weight gain for one baby
Recommended total weight gain for twins
If you are carrying more than two babies you should talk with your healthcare provider about your expected weight gain.14
Learn More: Nutrition and Weight Gain Recommendations during a Multiple Pregnancy
How much weight should I gain each trimester during pregnancy?
The recommended pattern of weight gain during pregnancy is about one pound per week during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.1 Underweight women should gain slightly more and overweight women should gain slightly less.1
Keep in mind that these recommendations are based on averages. It’s ok if your weight gain pattern differs from the approximately 1 pound per week in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.1 Some women experience slightly more weight gain one month followed by slightly less weight gain the next.1 What’s important is that you’re not consistently gaining too much or too little weight.
Some women even experience weight loss during the first trimester due to morning sickness. If you are losing weight (especially if it’s more than a few pounds) you should address this with your healthcare provider.
Read more: Strategies for Managing Morning Sickness
How much extra should you eat during pregnancy?
No extra calories during the first trimester are needed.
Although nutrient needs increase during the first trimester, your body does not yet need additional calories to support your baby (the fetus is still very small!).57 You can achieve the increased need for nutrients by eating quality foods (think whole foods, minimally processed) and the steady (not yet increased) need for energy by eating no more than you were eating before you got pregnant.
Weight maintenance or slight weight gain (about 1-4.5 pounds) in the first trimester is perfectly normal.5
Calorie needs go up in the second and third trimester.
Although it may be tempting to “eat for two”, instead try “thinking for two” and upgrade your dietary choices without overdoing your total dietary intake. This means choosing nutrient dense foods is more important now than ever.9
If you were a healthy weight before you became pregnant, you will need about 340 additional calories per day during your second trimester and about 450 additional calories per day during your third trimester.7
Read more: How Much should I Eat while Pregnant?
Where does the extra weight go during pregnancy?
It may feel like all of your weight gain is in your belly, but the weight you gain during pregnancy is actually distributed to several areas of your body.
For a 30 pound weight gain during pregnancy, the average weight distribution is:56
Maternal fat, protein, and nutrient stores
Avoiding excessive weight gain during pregnancy will help you to:
Reduce pregnancy symptoms such as heartburn, leg cramps, backaches, and lack of sleep
Continue to move around and stay physically active
Decrease the risk of preeclampsia, labor complications, and preterm birth
Decrease the risk of giving birth to a baby with an increased birth weight
Maintain a healthy pregnancy and positively impact your and your baby’s future health
Gaining enough weight during pregnancy will help you to:
Get enough nutrients for you and your baby
Decrease the chance of your baby having a low birth weight, microcephaly, and nutrient deficiencies
Tips for gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy
Keep a consistent eating pattern
Eating regular meals and 2-3 snacks each day will help keep your weight gain on track and cravings at bay. Eat plenty of fiber (in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds) and protein (from meat, chicken, tofu, nuts, seeds or nut or seed butter) to keep you fuller longer. And don’t forget to stay hydrated!
As your calorie needs increase, add extra vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and protein-rich foods to your diet.10
For example, to reach the extra 340 calories you’ll need in the second trimester try adding:
6 ounce container of plain low fat yogurt
A medium apple with a tablespoon of nut or seed butter
2 scrambled eggs on a piece of whole grain toast with sliced tomato
To reach the extra 450 calories you’ll need in the third trimester, try eating:
1 ounce of almonds or pumpkin seeds
1 cup of skim or soy milk, sliced raw vegetables with ¼ cup hummus, and a small piece of fruit
Turkey sandwich with 2 ounces of turkey from a roasted turkey breast (it’s advisable to avoid deli turkey slices given the severity of listeria in pregnant women), 1 ounce of cheese or ¼ avocado and two slices of whole grain bread
Which Nutrients do I Need during Pregnancy
Meal Plan: Key Nutrients of Pregnancy
Incorporate exercise to keep your weight gain in check
Most pregnant women should aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week.8
If that’s more than you’ve been doing, start slowly and work your way up. Not only will exercise help control your weight gain, but it will also help you stay fit and feel less discomfort. Consider swimming, walking, yoga, or aerobics classes designed for pregnant women.
Talk with your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise routine.
Learn More: Exercise During Pregnancy
Don’t weigh yourself often
It’s perfectly fine to wait for your monthly doctors’ appointments to assess your weight gain unless you are concerned that you’re gaining too much or too little.
If you choose to track your weight gain more closely (or if your doctor recommends you do so), weigh yourself at home no more than once a week, ideally at the same time of day and in the same state of dress or undress, and make note of your weight change. Remember that every woman is different, and your weight gain pattern may vary slightly from what’s considered typical.
Make adjustments as needed
If you’re not gaining enough weight you may need to eat a little more or decrease your activity level slightly. If you are gaining too much weight you may need to eat a little less or increase your activity level. Stay in tune with your body to find the right balance for you.
Speak to your healthcare provider with any concerns
If you have any concerns about your weight gain you should speak to your healthcare provider. Additionally, reach out to the Happy Baby Experts who can provide guidance on how to achieve healthy weight gain throughout your pregnancy.
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET).Chat Now!
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For more on this topic, check out the following articles:
Nutritious Snacks Ideas During Pregnancy
Nutrition Needs Before, During and After Pregnancy