In all honestly, I have been a little apprehensive to write this blog post. Women’s bodies are constantly judged and critiqued, even during pregnancy which makes talking about weight gain during pregnancy a touchy subject.
Pregnancy can be a very challenging and vulnerable time. We are told to embrace the process which also means accepting all the extra pounds we pack on. However, for most, that weight gain doesn’t come without fear.
Many moms fear how much weight they will gain during their pregnancy and how their bodies will change. Despite these fears, many women are putting on too much weight during pregnancy which could lead to further complications including preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, preterm birth and even low birth weight.
Not to mention they are left feeling discouraged and frustrated because they have more weight to lose from the pregnancy than they ever imagined.
In a society where 1 in 3 Americans are considered overweight or obese, I feel that it is important to discuss the benefits of maintaining a healthy pregnancy weight gain, for both mom and baby, as well as bring awareness to some of the risks of excess weight gain.
One of the most common questions I am asked is,
“How much weight you should gain during pregnancy”.
This is often followed by questions on how to control weight gain or how to prevent gaining too much weight gain during pregnancy.
Knowing where all the weight goes during pregnancy can really help you keep things in perspective and realize that you may not necessarily need to “eat for two” to have a healthy pregnancy and baby!
But first, here is my story with pregnancy weight gain.
I’m sure you have heard the term, “Eating for two”. However, this mindset often leads to excess and unnecessary weight gain.
I definitely had this mindset my first pregnancy and gained the most weight out of all three of my pregnancies which was about 41 pounds. I gained 15 pounds just the first trimester and I remember thinking, okay crying to my husband, “the baby is only the size of a jelly bean. That means all this extra weight gain is going to me!”
During my first pregnancy, like, most, I also feared sticking to my prenatal workouts. Between lack of exercise and excess calories, the weight gain was inevitable.
Now, I know this may not seem like a lot of weight to some. But for me, this was a lot of weight to gain. My baby was only 6.8 pounds which left me with about 25 pounds to lose from the pregnancy.
But more importantly than the weight gain, out of all three of my pregnancies, I felt the least healthy during my first. Poor eating and lack of exercise left me feeling more tired, irritable, achy and had to be monitored for possible preeclampsia.
I, like most, had crazy cravings and also felt like I had to eat excessively to provide nutrients for my baby and then feared that exercise could somehow harm my growing baby.
In the end, I was left with more weight to lose than I had ever imagined. I felt discouraging and questioned how I was even going to have time to lose weight and rebuild my strength with a newborn.
During my second and third pregnancies, I had become much more educated through obtaining my prenatal/postpartum exercise specialist certification. This on top of my Bachelors Degree in Exercise Science helped me learn the importance of not only watching what we eat during pregnancy but also the importance and benefits of staying active.
I trusted the process and my body more than I had my first time around. I was no longer afraid that missing a meal would starve my baby and my workouts were much more intense and consistent.
And guess what? I felt better than ever!
I gained 25 pounds my second pregnancy and 28 pounds my third. I had much more energy and a lot less aches and pains during these pregnancies. My babies were born at 8.5 pounds and 7.12 pounds respectively.
Weight gain during pregnancy is necessary, but how much we gain can have a huge impact on not only our health, but the health of our babies.
A one size fits all approach to pregnancy weight gain is not feisable. However, here are some general guidelines and why it is important to keep our weight gain within a healthy range.
1. So, How much weight should you gain during pregnancy?
First, keep in mind, pregnancy weight gain is not an exact science. Your rate of weight gain will depend on many factors such as activity level, genetics, and your metabolism. This is why it is important to talk to your doctor about what is best for you and your pregnancy.
You may have already heard pregnancy weight gain recommendations of 25-35 pounds. However, this is targeted toward women who’s body mass index (BMI) falls in the “Normal” range.
The first step in determining your ideal weight gain goal is to calculate your BMI. You can use this calculator.
However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) offers general weight gain guidelines based on various BMI ranges.
Pregnancy weight gain by trimester from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
My doctors always assured me my baby is going to get what it needs from my body, regardless of what I eat. this means, I don’t need to worry about eating significantly more calories.
If you are a slightly overweight, your body does not need to gain a significant amount of extra weight during pregnancy.
On the flip side, if you are slightly underweight prior to pregnancy, you need to gain slightly more.
- Underweight pre-pregnancy (BMI less than 18.5)- 28-40 pounds
- Average prepregnancy weight (BMI 18.5-24.9): 25-35 pounds
- Overweight pre-pregnancy (BMI 25-29): 15-25 pounds
- Obese prior to pregnancy (BMI 30+)- 11-20 pounds (1)
If you are carrying twins, these numbers will be different.
Pregnancy weight gain by Trimester
Remember, these are just guidelines!
Some weeks you may gain more than what is suggested and others you may not gain anything. The most important thing is to keep an awareness of your overall weight gain.
First trimester weight gain: 1-4.5 pounds
Your baby is only about the size of a poppyseed to a peach by week 12! If you fall in the average pregnancy weight gain category, you only need to gain about 1-4.5lbs.
If you have morning sickness, you may gain much less than or may even lose some weight. This is okay as long as your appetite comes back in the second trimester and your weight gain picks up.
Keep in mind, during the first trimester, your baby is only about the size of a poppy seed to a small peach. It doesn’t need a significant, if any, excess calories. It is getting everything it needs from your body and the foods you eat.
Second trimester weight gain: 1-2 pounds per week
This is when your baby is really starting to grow! During the second trimester you should gain about 1-2 pounds per week and average out to about 12-14 pounds depending on your pre-pregnancy weight.
Remember, this is just an average so some weeks you may not gain anything and others you may gain more.
Third Trimester weight gain: 1-2 Pounds a week
This is when the baby really starts packing on the pounds! Don’t let this scare you because your weight gain may actually taper off.
With less room in your belly, making room for food can be a challenge. Some women actually find that their weight stays steady or even drops a little. This is definitely not a time to try and lose weight but a time when your baby may be doing the bulk of her weight gain.
Remember these are just averages to give you a starting point. You and your health care provider need to decide what is best for you.
2. How close will I be able to following this exact formula?
Realistically, not very close. You will have a lot of fluctuations in your weight throughout your pregnancy. This is mostly due to fluid retention. There will likely be weeks where you overeat followed by weeks where you can barely stand the site of food.
During all my pregnancies, there were some weeks where I didn’t gain any weight and then some that I gained more than suggested. Our bodies are not cookie cutter creatures so it is important not to get frustrated if your weight gain is not following the guidelines exactly! (1)
The important thing is to monitor your weight gain and make sure it stays in a healthy range for you and your pregnancy.
If you start noticing the weight is coming on a little too quickly, then try with-staining from those cravings and shoot to be a little more active.
Remember, too much excess weight gain during pregnancy can cause potentially unhealthy complications for you and your baby.
Okay, so now a little more about your weight gain goal, lets see where all this weight goes!
3. I’m gaining weight but where does it go?
If your eating healthy and monitoring your weight gain, most of the weight you gain during pregnancy goes directly toward the growth of your baby.
Here is a general breakdown of baby weight gain. (1)
- Baby by the end of pregnancy = 7.5 pounds
- Amniotic fluid = 2 pounds. Amniotic fluid surrounds the baby in the womb.
- Uterus – 2 pounds
- Increased blood volume = 4 pounds
- Increased body fluids = 4 pounds
- Breast tissue= 2 pounds
- Placenta = 2 pounds. The placenta grows in your uterus (also called womb) and supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord.
- Uterus = 2 pounds. The uterus is the place inside you where your baby grow
4. Whats the best way to monitor pregnancy weight gain without losing your mind?
While I am not a huge fan of a scale, pregnancy is an exception. In order to stay on track, we need to monitor our weight gain. What we don’t know, we can’t control, right?
Here are a few tips to on tracking your pregnancy weight gain without driving yourself crazy.
- Only weigh yourself only once a week. More than this and you’ll drive yourself crazy by the daily fluid fluctuations.
- Weigh yourself at the same time of the day
- Use the same scale
- Wear similar clothes or nothing at all
- Keep track of it!
Waiting for your monthly doctor appointments is fine too but just keep in mind that a lot can happen in one months time which can make it harder to stay on track.
Related: How to eat during pregnancy to avoid excess weight gain
5. What if I’m gaining too much weight?
If you feel concerned about your weight gain, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider.
However, there are a few things you can do if you feel like you are gaining too much weight or too quickly:
- Start keeping a food journal. If you notice your diet consists of mostly processed foods and unhealthy options, start swapping those with more protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
- Get moving! If you were active prior to pregnancy, great job, keep going! Even if you have never exercised before, light to moderate exercise such as walking, swimming or even light weight training is safe during pregnancy. If you did not exercise prior to pregnancy, make sure you run it by your doctor first.
- Drink more water! Because of the excess fluid volume during pregnancy, our bodies need all the hydration it can get. Plus, being hydrated may help combat the desire to eat.
Pregnancy is the best time to really pay attention to what you put in your body. I know you may not be feeling your best and healthy foods do not sound appealing.
However, you wouldn’t feed your baby processed foods, fast food or foods with excess sugar, right? These foods are not providing your body or your baby with nutrients, just calories.
Try to eat these foods in moderation and balance them with options that provide a lot more nutrients for both you and your baby.
I firmly believe that pregnancy is the best time to focus on what you put into your body and develop healthier eating habits for your future.
Remember, what you feed your body, you feed your baby!
6. Why is it so important to watch how much weight I gain during pregnancy?
The most obvious reason is because excess weight gain will make your pregnancy much more physically challenging. You’re likely to experience more discomfort, aches and pains, and fatigue. Just like I mentioned above during my first pregnancy.
However, whats more important is that excess weight gain can directly affect your growing baby and your overall health during the pregnancy.
Excess weight gain during pregnancy is associated with preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, low birth weight, increased risk of cesarian section and even preterm birth.
These health issues can be serious if left untreated so sticking to a healthy weight gain during pregnancy is the best way to avoid facing these complications.
7. How can I deal with anxiety about pregnancy weight gain?
Now that I’ve touched on where all the weight and provided some general guidelines for the pregnancy weight gain recommendations, I want to touch on how to deal with anxiety or fears about gaining weight during pregnancy.
Coming from a background of a sever eating disorder that almost took my life twice in high school, I understand how scary it can feel to not only gain weight during pregnancy but also see the changes that take place.
However, after now having gone through three pregnancies, I can assure you that it doesn’t have to be as scary as it seems!
Knowing how much weight to gain and where the weight gain goes during pregnancy can really help to alleviate some of those fears.
Yes, your body will change. No, it might not go back to the way it was before. BUT, your body and mind are now stronger than ever.
There is nothing more empowering than pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood!
The most important thing is to have a healthy baby and pregnancy. This means eating foods that provide proper nutrients to you and your baby as well as staying active to help with things such as reduce blood pressure, reduce stress, improve sleep and can even help your baby be smarter!
I can honestly tell you that I have been more proud and confident in my body AFTER having babies than before. And I am confident you can too!
Related: How I Got in Better Shape After Having Babies
8. Will all that weight come off after the baby is born?
YES!! The time it takes to lose the weight gained during pregnancy will vary for all of us. However, it doesn’t have to stay with you forever!
Following a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy will help you stay on track and lose the weight faster after pregnancy. Just be sure to give your body time to recover from birth and the exhaustion of caring for a newborn.
I hight suggest focusing on strengthening your core and pelvic floor before resuming strenuous exercise too quickly. Be sure to check for Diastasis Recti or pelvic organ prolapse. You can find more information on my experience with both here & here.
I will be honest, my workouts had to change drastically after having kids. They had to be short yet intense. But these types of workouts also gave me the best results that I had ever gotten in all my 20 plus years of working out!
With a little confidence, support, and encouragement, you can do it!
I’m only one email away from helping you reach your goals or answer any questions. Never hesitate to reach out!
Brooke is a certified Prenatal and Postnatal Exercise Specialist with a Bachelors of Science degree in Kinesiology-Exercise Science. She is also a mom of 3 girls with more than 15 years of experience in health and fitness. Brooke’s goal at Struggles of a Fit Mom is to help motivate, educate and inspire other busy mamas who struggle with finding time, energy and motivation to take care of themselves in the chaos of motherhood.