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Pregnancy Weight Gain: What is Healthy?

July 26, 2017 | Adult and Adolescent MedicineFamily MedicineOB/GYNWomen and Children's Center

OBGYN - What to Expect AFTER Expecting

Weight gain is expected and highly necessary during pregnancy. While a baby is in the womb, the mother must provide nutrients through additional calorie consumption, which naturally leads to an increase in weight.

What are the right amounts of weight gain, and what are some strategies you can take to hit these proper thresholds during pregnancy? Let’s look at some basics in this area.


Basics and Statistics

The amount each mother needs to gain during pregnancy varies between cases, but on average, a mother only needs about 300 more calories per day than she did before she was pregnant. The precise amounts you should gain may depend on either weight or BMI (body mass index). In general, average women should gain 25 to 35 pounds, underweight women should gain 28 to 40 pounds and overweight women may only need to gain 15 to 25 pounds.


In most cases, you’ll gain about 2 to 4 pounds during the first three months of pregnancy, then roughly a pound a week for the remainder of the term. Women expecting twins should expect to gain 35 to 45 pounds.

Where does all this weight go? Several different places, it turns out. Here’s a basic breakdown based on general averages:

  • Baby: 8 pounds
  • Placenta: 2-3 pounds
  • Amniotic fluid: 2-3 pounds
  • Breast tissue: 2-3 pounds
  • Blood supply: 4 pounds
  • Stored fat for delivery and breastfeeding: 5-9 pounds
  • Larger uterus: 2-5 pounds
  • Total: 25-35 pounds


In some rare cases, if a mother is very overweight when she becomes pregnant, her doctor may want her to lose weight under the doctor’s care. Otherwise, though, women should not try to lose weight or diet during pregnancy.


Gaining the Right Amounts


Here are some tactics for gaining weight in a proper and healthy manner:

  • Eat five to six small meals per day.
  • Keep simple snacks around: Including nuts, raisins, cheese and crackers, dried fruit and ice cream or yogurt can help with healthy weight gain.
  • Use peanut butter: One tablespoon of creamy peanut butter adds about 100 calories and 7 grams of protein. Consider spreading it on toast, crackers, fruits and veggies.
  • Use nonfat powdered milk: Try increasing calories by adding nonfat powdered milk to items like mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs and hot cereal.
  • Add additional items: Occasionally adding margarine, cream cheese, gravy, sour cream and cheese to standard meals can help with healthy weight gain. 


Slowing Weight Gain


In some cases, you may gain more weight than your doctor has recommended. Speak to your doctor about your approach here—in most cases, you’ll be advised to wait until after the baby has been delivered to begin a weight loss effort. However, some tips to slow the progress of weight gain include:

  • If you’re eating fast food, choose lower-fat items like chicken sandwiches, side salads, plain bagels or plain baked potatoes. Avoid fried foods like french fries, mozzarella sticks and breaded chicken patties.
  • Avoid whole milk—use skim, 1 percent or 2 percent instead, and choose low-fat or fat-free cheese or yogurt. This will reduce your calories and fat.
  • Limit sweet, sugary drinks, including soft drinks, fruit punch, fruit drinks, ice tea, lemonade and powdered drink mixes. These have lots of empty calories—choose water, club soda or mineral water instead.
  • Don’t add salt to food when cooking, as this will cause you to retain water.
  • Limit sweets and high-calorie snacks, and replace them with fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt, angel food cake with strawberries, or pretzels.
  • Moderate fats, including cooking oils, margarine, butter, gravy, sauces, salad dressings, cream and others. Look for low-fat alternatives where possible.
  • Cook healthy: Avoid frying foods in oil, and look to baking, broiling, grilling and boiling instead.
  • Exercise moderately—ask your doctor if you’re wondering about approval for a particular exercise.


If you’re pregnant or considering becoming pregnant, your doctor will advise you on a weight plan.


I practice the full range of family medicine including obstetrics, pediatrics, adolescent medicine, adult medicine and some orthopedics. I also perform colposcopy, cryotherapy and vasectomies. Due to the volume of deliveries we do, my practice has evolved to be more centered on women and children’s medicine, although I enjoy all aspects of family medicine. 




“Gain Weight Safely During Your Pregnancy.” WebMD.

“Pregnancy Weight Gain.” American Pregnancy Association.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.