Weight Gain During Pregnancy

Rachel Kofsky, MA, RD, CSP, CDN

Some topics are super important, and so awkward and uncomfortable to think and talk about. Weight gain during pregnancy is top of that list! Many women struggle with the recommended weight gain in one way or another. Hear that! You’re not alone. Plus, we also have the pressure to get rid of the baby weight ASAP. What the heck!? 

No matter your story or experience, it is important to discuss the evidenced based information when it comes to this topic. So that’s what we’re doing here. Have you heard this idea that as a woman develops in pregnancy, she is “eating for two”? To be clear, this phrase does ring true in some ways. Let’s lay out the facts when it comes to weight gain during pregnancy. 

You Need More Calories

First off – you do need more calories per day when you’re pregnant. This increased need in nutrition begins in the second semester. Depending on your lifestyle and schedule, adding in this extra nutrition can look different. It might be an added on “mini meal” or you may opt to increase all your portions throughout the day. 

The average woman needs about an additional 340 calories per day 2nd trimester and an additional 450 calories in the third trimester. For some this is way less than expected. If you were really “eating for two”, this second person could certainly not thrive on 340 calories per day right?

What’s 340 calories? Good question.

It may not be as much as you think or a whole lot. Calories can be confusing. Here’s an idea:

  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • 1 slice of bread and a quarter of an avocado
  • 1 yogurt (full fat) with 1 spoonful nut butter and a handful of berries
  • half of a turkey, tuna or PB& J sandwich 

 

Weight Gain During Pregnancy… Give Me the Numbers!

How much weight you should put on during your pregnancy mainly depends on your “pre- gestational weight”. This is a fancy way of saying what your BMI or weight status was right before you got pregnant. Now, I’m no fan of the terms overweight or obese because they can be quite shaming. Ultimately your BMI correlates as one of the following: Underweight, Normal Weight, Overweight or Obese. Based on this, there is a recommended amount of weight you should gain during your pregnancy. The numbers below are specific to a single baby pregnancy only (ie.e not twins). 

BMI, us nutritionists love and hate it at the same time. BMI is ultimately the ratio between your weight and your height. As an example, if you’re tall and slender, you likely have a lower BMI. It’s important because studies show many outcomes in pregnancy are related to BMI. However, it should also be taken with a grain of salt. BMI is a bit outdated in that it doesn’t take into account someone’s muscle mass. Many gymnasts or athletic individuals look overweight or obese based on their BMI – but in actuality they are just quite muscular. Regardless it does remain one of the best tools we have to evaluate health and outcomes.

Here’s a handy chart for ya on specific guidance for weight gain during pregnancy:

 

Underweight

BMI < 18.5

28-40 lb total wt gain

  •  1st trimester 2.2 – 6.6 lb wt gain 
  • 2nd and 3rd trimesters 1lb/week

Normal Weight

BMI 18.5-24.9

25-35 lb wt gain total

  • first trimester 2.2-6.6 lb wt gain 
  • 2nd and 3rd 1 lb/week

Overweight

BMI 25.0 – 29.9

15-25 lb total wt gain

  • first trimester 2.2 – 6.6 lb wt gain 
  •  2nd and 3rd 0.6 lb/week

Obese

BMI >30

11-20 lb total wt gain

  •  first trimester 1.1 – 4.4 lb 
  • 2nd and 3rd trimesters 0.5 lb/week

Why Does This Even Matter?

It’s really all about the baby! We know there’s a lot of poor bed-side manner out there, but just remember your MD (or nutritionist) want the best for you and your baby. That’s the ultimate goal. Why weight gain during pregnancy matters so much, is for a few reasons. Those with a higher BMI are at risk for several complications during and after pregnancy, including miscarriage, gestational diabetes, a specific high blood pressure condition called preeclampsia, and c-section complications.

Tip: Make sure you find an MD you are comfortable with and can follow up regularly to discuss things like weight, nutrition and overall well-being.

How to Find Healthy Weight Gain For You

If you do fall into these obese/overweight categories there are things that you can do: 

  • Sleep and exercise (even minimal like a 10 minute walk) can be very helpful in regulating hunger and fullness cues. Make sure these are things you are prioritizing for yourself.
  • Focus on balance, every meals/snack should have a combination of fat, protein and carbs. For example crackers are better when eaten with cheese vs alone. It is absorbed and digested better within the body.
  • Eat every 3-4 hours throughout the day, this will avoid overwhelming hunger which may lead to eating in unbalanced ways. This also stabilizes sugar levels which is both healthy for Mom and Baby!
  • Seek out the advice of a registered dietitian, like a Foublie Coach. Weight and body are important and personal subjects, especially during pregnancy. You deserve the attention and advice of someone who understands you and your personal goals.
  • Give yourself a break. Feeling crappy because growing a baby is hard? Eat the bagel if you need it. You’re not alone.

Bottom line?

You’ve got this and this pregnancy weight gain thing

There are several ways you can make sure you take the best care of yourself and your growing baby during this time so don’t be afraid to make YOU a priority!

Want some extra help?

Our Fooblie Coaches are here to help you make a pregnancy weight gain plan, or just to answer any quick questions.