Most women should gain somewhere between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy. If a woman does not gain enough weight, there may be health problems for the mother and baby.
Most women will gain 2 to 4 pounds during the first trimester, and 1 pound a week for the rest of the pregnancy. Through the entire pregnancy:
- Overweight women need to gain less (15 to 20 pounds or less, depending on their prepregnancy weight)
- Underweight women will need to gain more (28 to 40 pounds)
- You should gain more weight if you are having more than one baby. Women having twins will need to gain 37 to 54 pounds.
Some women have a hard time gaining weight during pregnancy. Sometimes it is because they start a pregnancy underweight, or they have other health issues that keep them from gaining weight. Sometimes they are not able to keep food down due to nausea and vomiting.
Either way, a balanced, nutrient-rich diet, along with moderate exercise, is the basis for a healthy pregnancy. Ask your health care provider how many calories you should eat each day, and how you can gain the right amount of weight.
If You Need to Gain Weight During Pregnancy
If your health care provider says you should gain more weight, here are some tips to help:
- DO NOT skip meals. Instead of eating 3 big meals, eat 5 to 6 small meals every day.
- Keep quick, easy snacks on hand. Nuts, raisins, cheese and crackers, dried fruit, and ice cream or yogurt are good choices.
- Spread peanut butter on toast, crackers, apples, bananas, or celery. One tablespoon of creamy peanut butter will provide about 100 calories and 7 grams of protein.
- Add nonfat powdered milk to foods such as mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, and hot cereal.
- Add butter or margarine, cream cheese, gravy, sour cream, and cheese to your meals.
- Try to eat more foods that are high in good fats, such as nuts, fatty fish, avocados, and olive oil.
- Drink juices made from real fruit that are high in vitamin C or beta carotene. Grapefruit juice, orange juice, papaya nectar, apricot nectar, and carrot juice are good choices.
- Avoid junk food.
- Ask your provider about taking prenatal vitamins and other supplements.
- See a dietitian or nutritionist for help with your diet, if your provider recommends it.
Body Image and Pregnancy
If you have struggled with your weight in the past, it may be hard to accept that it is ok to gain weight now. It is normal to feel anxious as the numbers on the scale edge up.
Pregnancy is not a time to diet or worry about weight gain. Keep in mind that weight gain is needed for a healthy pregnancy. The extra pounds will come off after you have had your baby. Remember not to gain too much, as this can cause your baby to be too big. A healthy diet and regular exercise will help you have a healthy pregnancy and baby.
If worries about your body image affect your pregnancy or daily life, talk to your health care provider.
Baxley EG, Setzler Brown R. Patient and family education: Nutrition in pregnancy and lactation. In: Ratcliffe SD, Baxley EG, Cline MK, Sakornbut EL, eds. Family Medicine Obstetrics. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 4.
Gregory KD, Niebyl JR, Johnson TRB. Preconception and prenatal care: part of the continuum. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 6.
Update Date 11/19/2014
Updated by: Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.