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January 2016

Pregnant? Watch Your Weight Gain

Eating for two doesn’t mean you need to eat twice as much. When you are pregnant, you should keep an eye on your weight. But many women are gaining too many pounds during pregnancy, says a recent government report. That can lead to many health woes for mom and baby.

Pregnant woman talking with her doctor

Gauging weight gain

In a recent study, researchers set out to see how much weight U.S. women tend to gain when pregnant. They looked at birth certificate data from 2012 and 2013. The certificates not only record vital information about the baby. But they also list the mother’s height, her weight before she became pregnant, and her weight when she gave birth.

Using this data, the researchers were able to calculate the body mass index (BMI) of more than 2.5 million pregnant women. BMI is a tool that helps healthcare providers assess a person’s body fat. The resulting number can tell if you are underweight, normal, overweight, or obese.

The researchers used the women’s BMI before pregnancy and their weight after giving birth to gauge weight gain among pregnant women in the U.S. They found that only slightly one-third of women actually gained the recommended amount of weight when pregnant. In fact, nearly half of the women gained too much weight. Those who were overweight and obese were most likely to put on extra pounds.

Why those pounds matter

Gaining too much weight while pregnant can cause many health problems for mother and child. For moms-to-be, extra weight raises their risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure while pregnant. It may also complicate the delivery. Pregnant women who weigh more tend to give birth to larger babies. These women may also find it harder to lose weight after giving birth.

For the child, a mother’s added pounds can result in a premature delivery, raising the risk for death. These children may also end up with high blood pressure and other health problems, such as attention deficit disorder. Plus, they may be more likely to be overweight and obese as they grow older.

So how much weight should you gain? It depends on how much you weigh before becoming pregnant. Experts recommend that if you are:

  • Underweight, gain 28 to 40 pounds

  • Healthy weight, gain 25 to 35 pounds

  • Overweight, gain 15 to 25 pounds

  • Obese, gain 11 to 20 pounds

Talk with your healthcare provider to figure out your BMI. That will help determine how much weight gain is right for you. To help you stay at a healthy weight while pregnant, follow these tips:

  • Try not to eat more than 350 to 450 more calories a day. Focus on healthy fare, including lots of fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy foods.

  • Stay active. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity every day. Good options include brisk walking and swimming.

  • Check your weight often. It will help you keep track of your weight gain. You can then make changes in your diet and activity level if needed.

  • See your healthcare provider for all prenatal visits.


Find out more about a healthy pregnancy here.

Online resources

American Academy of Family Physicians

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development


Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/28/2015
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