Pregnancy is a time of many challenges for both mother and baby. The mother's body goes through tremendous changes, including weight gain — your heart rate will increase by 25%, while your blood volume and cardiac output will grow by even 50%! 🤰

All these processes require lots of energy. That's why weight gain during pregnancy is normal and healthy. It is essential to understand that an "ideal" weight for pregnant women doesn't exist.

💡 This article is a part of a bigger series, based on our pregnancy weight gain calculator.

How much weight gain is normal during pregnancy?

Here are some weight gain recommendations during pregnancy. These depend on your body mass index (BMI) and weight, both before gestation. Remember, these estimates are correct for your target weight at full 40 weeks!

  • Underweight (BMI <18.5)
    • Expected weight gain: 28–40 pounds (12.7–18.1 kg)
  • Normal (BMI 18.5–24.9)
    • Single pregnancy expected weight gain: 25–35 pounds (11.3–15.9 kg)
    • Twin pregnancy expected weight gain: 37–54 pounds (16.8–24.5 kg)
  • Overweight (BMI between 25 and 29.9)
    • Single pregnancy expected weight gain: 15–25 pounds (6.8–11.3 kg)
    • Twin pregnancy expected weight gain: 14–50 pounds (6.4–22.7 kg)
  • Obese (BMI over 30)
    • Single pregnancy expected weight gain: 11–20 pounds (5–9 kg)
    • Twin pregnancy expected weight gain: 25–42 pounds (11.3–19 kg)

As you can see, an average woman with a healthy weight before pregnancy only needs to gain 25 to 35 pounds! Always remember to eat healthily and to maintain physical activity during pregnancy. 🏃

How do I get my pregnancy weight gain back on track?

We often say that a pregnant woman must eat for two — it's not necessarily true!

If you're pregnant already, you don't need to increase your calories intake until the seond trimester of pregnancy. After that, you should eat around 300 calories more daily. That's equivalent to:

  • A bowl of cereals, one banana, and some tea 🍌; or
  • Two scrambled eggs, one whole-wheat toast, one piece of turkey bacon, and a bit of low-fat butter. 🍳

This amount should stay the same during the third trimester and rise to 500 kcal when breastfeeding. 🍼

As you can see, the primary means to achieve a healthy weight during pregnancy is to control the amount of food you're consuming — choose healthy, wholemeal options and eat your favorite meals, but try to stick to moderate amounts. Diversity in your food is key! If your pregnancy is safe and sound, don't hesitate to exercise when pregnant — physical activity is beneficial for both the mother and the baby.

Don't ever try to forcibly lose the extra weight on your own — talk to your health care provider in case of any doubt.

What can I do to slow weight gain?

Once you become pregnant, certain changes in your body will start to develop, and one of the most essential ones is the weight gain. Your weight changes not only because of the baby growing inside of your womb. Your body is also accumulating energy and substances needed for the fetus during pregnancy and delivery, as well as breastfeeding!

If you're afraid that you're gaining too much weight too quickly, the first thing to do is not to panic. The amount of weight gain and its rate differ widely depending on your pre-pregnancy weight and your pregnancy itself. Start by looking at the paragraph above and finding your recommended weight gain for the 40th week of the pregnancy.

If you're absolutely sure about your excess weight gain, focus on eating a healthy diet and some physical exercise. If you can't think of anything, try walking. Taking a 20–30 minute walk every day is beneficial to your body and might be a good start for an even healthier lifestyle! 🌳🚶🌳

Ask your OB-GYN for any further options suited to your personal needs.

Why should I exercise during pregnancy?

Exercising during pregnancy is excellent for keeping your body in shape, managing your weight, and improving your overall immunity! We may remember times when women were told to refrain from physical activity during pregnancy — luckily, the science has moved forward.

The vast majority of studies prove that moderate-intensity and aerobic exercise improves the health of both the mother and the baby, yet about 60% of expectant mothers are still reluctant to undertake any form of additional activity throughout pregnancy.

Why is that so? 🤷‍♀️

A sedentary lifestyle may increase the risk of certain diseases with pregnancy, such as deep vein thrombosis. The lack of exercise (especially when combined with excessive food intake) may lead to obesity, and also poses a threat to the wellbeing of the pregnancy. If you maintain healthy weight gain, you're lowering the risk of congenital anomalies, spontaneous abortion and stillbirth.

A healthy lifestyle ensures that your baby will have the best possible start in life! 💪

Can you follow a weight loss diet during pregnancy?

While excessive weight gain bears an unquestionable risk for pregnancy, we also need to discuss the threats connected to weight reduction.

When it comes to losing weight during pregnancy, we need to be very careful. You should not try any new diets and methods on your own, since some of them might be harmful to your unborn baby. Reducing your weight rapidly is also not a healthy idea — a balanced diet and regular exercise should push the gained weight back to its proper course.

💡 Contact your healthcare provider for specific diet recommendations that won't do you any harm.

Malnutrition and underweight caused by improper diets pose a risk of multiple problems during pregnancy:

  • Low birth weight;
  • Premature delivery;
  • Further developmental problems;
  • Anemia; or
  • Higher probability of neonatal death.

Body image during pregnancy

While your body is undergoing lots of different changes, you may start to wonder, where does all this extra weight come from? Let's list every additional pound during your pregnancy:

  • The baby, of course! An average child's weight at birth is 7.7 lb.
  • An enlarged uterus weighs around 2 lb.
  • Enlarged breasts weigh around 2 lb.
  • The placenta adds another 1.5 lb.
  • Amniotic fluid is responsible for an additional 2 lb.
  • Your blood volume (increased by ~50%) and other bodily fluids accounts for 6.6 lb.
  • The extra fat tissue weighs close to 7.7 lb.

Why do women need additional fat tissue, we may ask?

Fat tissue contains cholesterol, a primary ingredient of many pregnancy hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone. These substances are crucial for keeping the pregnancy alive and carrying it to term — women whose fat level is too low are usually unable to conceive and support healthy pregnancies.

Food fix: What to eat when pregnant

To put things simply: food diversity, lots of veggies, and smaller but more frequent meals! 🥦

Here's a list of essential foods that will help you keep a healthy diet and deliver all the nutrients for your baby's growth!

  • Fruits and vegetables — raw, steamed, in salads, as much as you can! 🥗
  • Meat, poultry, fish — a great source of proteins, iron, and vitamin B12 (omit raw food). 🐟
  • Choose wholewheat products — they offer way more nutrients than their white counterparts.
  • Dairy products — a source of calcium, proteins, and vitamins (omit blue cheeses and raw milk). 🥛
  • Keep away from processed foods and the saturated fats in fast foods, ready-to-go meals, ice creams, cakes, and salty snacks like chips.
  • Drink a lot of fluids (but not alcohol).💧
  • Eat smaller portions — it can ease the problem of heartburn common among pregnant women.
Łucja Zaborowska, MD, PhD candidate
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Weight during pregnancy
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