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Weight Gain Guidelines

A proper diet and adequate weight gain during pregnancy are essential for good health of the mother and optimum development of her baby. If a mother doesn't gain enough weight, her baby may be born small. Low birth weight infants have a greater chance of health problems. On the other hand, if weight gain is excessive, the baby may grow too large. This could complicate the birth process and increase risk of problems during pregnancy. It is also hard for most women to lose a large amount of excess weight after the pregnancy.

The appropriate weight gain during a pregnancy depends on several factors, including mother's pre-pregnant weight and age. A woman who is of average weight is encouraged to gain somewhere between 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. Underweight women need to gain a bit more weight, and high weight women a bit less. No one should ever try to lose weight during pregnancy. Maternal weight loss results in excess blood ketone levels. Ketones are toxic to fetuses.

Weight gain goals are typically presented in graph format. In order to select the appropriate graph for your pregnancy, begin by calculating the Body Mass Index for your pre-pregnancy weight. A BMI score below 20 is considered low weight; scores above 25 are considered high weight. Once you know your pre-pregnancy weight category, review the selections below for a graph in pounds or kilograms, and find your age group or, if appropriate, the multiple pregnancy category that best describes you. Click on your selection to learn about individual recommendations.

Select A Weight Gain Graph
Choose Pounds Choose Kilograms
Adult Adult
Low Weight
BMI <20
Normal Weight
BMI 20-25
High Weight
BMI >25
Low Weight
BMI <20
Normal Weight
BMI 20-25
High Weight
BMI >25
Teenager Teenager
Low Weight Normal Weight High Weight Low Weight Normal Weight High Weight
Multiple Pregnancy Multiple Pregnancy
Twins and
Low Weight
Twins and Normal or High Weight Triplets Twins and
Low Weight
Twins and Normal or High Weight Triplets

Height:
Women under 5' 2" should aim for weight gain at the lower end of the ranges. Greater weight gain in smaller women increases the risks for problems at the time of delivery.

Fluid Retention:
It may hard to evaluate weight gain if you begin to retain fluid at the end of your pregnancy. Talk with your physician about this possibility if you notice your ankles or fingers begin to swell.

Higher Risk Pregnancies:
There is not enough data about optimum weight gain for women having risk pregnancies, such as teens and those expecting more than one baby. We know that adequate weight gain is important for the health of both mother and child. But beyond that, individual recommendations and close monitoring by the obstetrician are critical for a healthy high risk pregnancy. These are some starting guidelines but be sure to follow up with your physician if you fall into one of these groups:

  • On the whole, teenage mothers are encouraged to gain slightly more weight than their adult counterparts. Teens have higher risk pregnancies. The younger the girl, the higher the pregnancy risk and, generally, the higher the weight gain recommendation.
  • Women who are pregnant with twins or multiples should obviously gain more weight than women who have single fetus pregnancies. One study showed optimal outcomes were associated with weight gain of 44 pounds for twin pregnancies.

Why Gain Weight
Some women dread the thought of gaining weight. It's important to realize that normal weight gain during a pregnancy is not laying down as much maternal fat stores as one may think. The following table points out how those important extra pounds are distributed.

Breakdown of Your Weight Gain
(All weights are approximate)
Baby 7.5 lbs 3.4 kg
Placenta 1.5 lbs 0.7 kg
Amniotic Fluid 1.75 lbs 0.8 kg
Uterus 2.0 lbs 0.9 kg
Breast Tissue 1.0 lb 0.40 kg
Increase in Maternal Blood Volume 2.75 lbs 1.25 kg
Fluids in Maternal Tissues 3.0 lbs 1.35 kg
Maternal Fat Stores 7.0 lbs 3.2 kg
Total Average 26.5 lbs 12.0 kg

Not all exercises or diets are suitable for everyone. Before you begin this program, you should have permission from your doctor to participate in vigorous exercise and change of diet. If you feel discomfort or pain when you exercise, do not continue. The instructions and advice presented are in no way intended as a substitute for medical counseling. The creators, producers, participants and distributors of this site disclaim any liability or loss in connection with the exercise and advice provided here.

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