A recent study into recommendations on how much weight a woman should gain during pregnancy showed that while healthcare providers could influence the amount of weight gain, only a quarter of women received the proper advice. Another 25% of women received no advice whatsoever.
This is concerning news because women need to receive the most up-to-date recommendations from their health care provider or gynecologist. Aiming for a healthy weight gain during pregnancy and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can decrease the risk of an adverse outcome. So, if you are pregnant then how much weight should you really gain during pregnancy?
You Don’t Need That Many Extra Calories Each Day
During pregnancy, it’s essential to eat a healthy and balanced diet to ensure your baby receives all the nutrients required to grow at a healthy rate. However, although you will need to eat a little more than normal, the amount needed is surprisingly low. The old advice about eating for two definitely isn’t right!
On average, a pregnant woman only needs about an additional 300 calories each day, over and above the amount she was eating before she became pregnant. These calories should be obtained from eating healthy and nutrient dense foods so it’s not an excuse to tuck into cookies and muffins. A woman who was within a normal weight range before pregnancy should aim to gain between 25 and 35 pounds. Women who were underweight will need to put on between 28 and 40 pounds. Women who were overweight will need to put on a little less weight of just 15 to 25 pounds over the course of pregnancy.
Generally, it’s normal to gain between two and 4 pounds during the first three months of pregnancy and to put on a pound every week for the rest of the pregnancy. Women who are expecting twins will gain an average of 35 to 45 pounds during pregnancy. This only works out at an average of 1½ pounds each week after the normal weight gain during the first trimester. If you are expecting twins then it’s especially important to pay attention to your weight gain, because the amount of weight that you put on will affect the babies weight. It’s quite common for twins to arrive before the due date so a higher birth weight is preferable. When pregnant with twins, you may need to eat between 3000 and 3500 calories each day.
Why is This Weight Gain Necessary during Pregnancy?
You might be wondering why you even need to gain an additional 25 to 35 pounds when the average baby weighs just 8 pounds. However, that extra weight is necessary for other functions as for example, your placenta will weigh two or 3 pounds, as does amniotic fluid. The extra blood supply required for a baby weighs around 4 pounds. Then your body will want to store some fat to cope with the delivery and make sure you can breastfeed your baby, and this equates to between five and 9 pounds. Your breasts will also increase in weight by between two and 3 pounds. Your uterus will need to increase in size which is another two to 5 pounds. When you add it all up, then the weight gain makes perfect sense.
One question often asked by women during pregnancy is if it’s safe to lose any weight. The short answer is probably not unless you happen to be extremely overweight and are advised by your doctor to lose some weight. During pregnancy, it is only safe to lose weight under a doctor’s supervision and generally you shouldn’t try to diet at this time.
Making Sure You Safely Gain Weight during Pregnancy
If you need to put on weight during your pregnancy, then it can be better to aim to eat five or six small meals every day. Make sure you have plenty of nutritious snacks such as cheese, yogurt, nuts or peanut butter on toast. Peanut butter is an especially good source of protein.
If you’re gaining weight too quickly then you may want to choose lower fat items that are still nutritious such as lean meats, skimmed or reduced-fat milk, or low-fat yogurt. Try to avoid adding salt to your food because this can cause water retention. Keep high-calorie snacks for a treat and instead aim to eat plenty of fresh fruit and fresh vegetables. Your doctor or gynecologist can advise you on exercising during pregnancy as generally swimming or walking is safe and can help burn excess calories.