How much weight to gain during pregnancy

This is one of those things where doctors tell you that you have to gain weight then are all “Whoa, easy there Horton” if you gain too much.

There seems to be two camps of women where this one is an issue: ones that are scared to gain any weight because they are so accustomed to keeping it off and women who use pregnancy as an excuse to unhinge their jaw and eat 20 buckets of chicken in a sitting (wafer thin mint, sir?).

So since the 1970s, the powers-that-be have advised women in North America to gain 25 – 35 pounds during their pregnancies. Women who are over-weight are advised to gain 5-10 lbs less and women who are under-weight are advised to gain 5-10 lbs more. Here is an approximate breakdown of where it’s all going if you’re carrying a single baby:

Baby – 8 pounds

Placenta – 2-3 pounds

Amniotic fluid – 2-3 pounds

Boobs – 2-3 pounds

Blood – 3-4 pounds

Fat & water – 5-9 pounds (or, if you’re like me, 60 pounds)

Uterus increase – 2-5 pounds

Total: 25 to 35 pounds

As for the risks associated with tipping the scales either way:

If you gain too much weight:

The only clear cut thing I could find on this one is that you are more likely to have a big baby, which can cause labour complications and puts you at a higher risk for having a cesarean delivery. There is also some talk of your giant baby becoming obese as an adult but the studies I read were a little wishy washy on whether it was because of pregnancy weight gain or just because obese people tend to feed their kids obese foods.

Other issues stem from going into your pregnancy over weight – this includes not taking off the weight from your previous pregnancies. It seems that if you start pregnancy overweight you are at higher risk for complications including gestational diabetes and preeclampsia and it increases the risk of breast cancer and type 2 diabetes later in life. But as far as I’m concerned that’s a whole lot of fat chat that we already know about that has less to do with pregnancy and more to do with the risks associated with being over weight so they aren’t shaking the donut free from my hand yet.

If you don’t gain enough weight:

You at higher risk of delivering a preterm infant or a low-birth-weight baby (under 5.5 pounds). But lets say you’re a relentless barfing machine from morning sickness – and we’re not just talking about once here and there – but constant vomiting which is clinically called hyperemesis gravidarum. No long-term follow-up studies have been conducted on children of hyperemetic women but they don’t appear to have any greater risk of complications or birth defects than other children. That said, it’s treated fairly aggressively because it’s damn unpleasant and because of the risks listed above.

On an interesting note, in England, women are weighed only at the beginning and end of the pregnancy, with medical experts citing the lack of evidence that monitoring weight promotes healthier births. Yet another reason I would move to Europe if I was going to give birth again – acceptable wine drinking on occasion being the first reason.

[Note: I have had many women in England tell me they were weighed during their pregnancies and many that tell me that they weren’t. I am holding off on an update until I hear from Kate Middleton.]

As for myself, I gained 65lbs in both of my pregnancies. The first time around I was meticulous about making sure I was eating all the right things then added some ice cream and a ton of french fries on top of it because I was HUNGRY. Not just peckish, but knock-over-the-kid-with-the-cookie-a-steal-it hungry. The second time around, I felt like shit so I ate Mr. Noodle and whatever my toddler dropped on the floor. Yet I still gained the same amount of weight.

There are a few people that think you are a little pre-disposed to gaining a certain amount of weight regardless of what you eat or don’t eat. I like these people. They can move to Europe with me.

search: pregnancy weight gain, weight gain in pregnancy, pregnancy weight gain guidelines, weight gain during pregnancy

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25 Comments

  • Gained 35 lbs with my first, he was 7 lbs 10 oz. Gained 25 with my second, 8 lb baby. I’m 29 weeks with boy #3 and up nearly 30 lbs because the scale likes to jump every time I have anything remotely salty (thyroid, BP, glucose all normal, so I’m just hoping my ob won’t give me too much grief!)

  • I realize this is a super old post, but I really appreciate it and wanted to add my story for others who will read it and want confirmation that their weight gain is normal. I started my first pregnancy at 115 pounds (up about 5 pounds from normal; I was drinking whole milk to help me ovulate, and because it’s delicious) and gained 48 pounds before I delivered. I ate a balanced diet, a mix of fruits and veggies, protein, dairy, carbs, sweets, etc., but larger portions and more snacks (mostly healthy! and not HUGE portions!) because I was STARVING (especially during the first trimester; I never had morning sickness). I also worked out at least 3 times a week, doing the elliptical, swimming, and yoga. I gained 9 of those pounds in 9 days and my midwife implied I maybe had too much pie at Thanksgiving (yeah, like I ATE my way to 9 pounds in 9 days). They thought I maybe had preeclampsia at the end because I was so swollen, had gained so much weight, and had high blood pressure, but my labs came back normal. But my daughter was just over 7 pounds and, with the help of breastfeeding and moderate exercise and lots of muffins, I lost all the weight in about 6-9 months and was 10 pounds under my pre-pregnancy weight after a year. SO BOOYAH. My sister also gained about 50 pounds while pregnant. I am 100% in the “you are just going to gain a certain amount of weight” camp (though obviously you also shouldn’t LITERALLY eat for 2 fully grown human beings). I’m in my second trimester with my second baby now and would love to gain a bit less weight only so I won’t be as swollen and uncomfortable at the end, but I’m also not sweating it this time because I know now that it is going to be fine.

  • I’m not sure exactly how much I gained, because I’m in England and they only weighed me at the start, and not at the end. Another reason to love the NHS! I had a 9lb 1 oz baby, and lost about 14 lbs right away. Unfortunately, I gained it back around 3 months post-partum–too much time spent trapped under a sleeping/nursing baby and too much snacking "to keep my milk supply up"…FYI, lactation cookies are still cookies.

  • I started my pregnancy at 115 lbs, and gained 13. My midwife (and concerned strangers) was expecting a small baby. She was born at 39 wks, 7 lbs, 12oz, so not tiny. I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight at about 4 days pp..never sick throughout and ate well. A friend who gave birth one day earlier gained 40 lbs and her baby was 6 lbs, so there doesn’t seem to be any correlation. My sister gained 30 lbs for both her pregnancies, and babies were 6lbs, and then 9 lbs… so there ya go!

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