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Pregnancy Weight Gain Guidelines Explained


What Happens If I Gain Too Much or Too Little During Pregnancy?

In the short term, gaining the suggested amount of weight reduces the risk of preterm birth (birth before 37 weeks of gestation) and promotes a baby that isn't too big or too small at delivery. 

In the long run, research suggests that the greater the weight gain during pregnancy, the higher the risk of having an overweight child and one with higher blood pressure. Children who are born too small, which can result from inadequate weight gain during pregnancy, are more prone to certain chronic conditions, including heart disease and diabetes, during adulthood.

What if you miss the mark for recommended weight gain? If you're off by just a few pounds either way, it probably won't make much of a difference. The IOM guidelines provide a range in each BMI category, suggesting that good outcomes are achieved with all different weight gains. Listen to the advice of your doctor or nurse-midwife about weight gain, but if you have doubts, ask what's right for you.

How Much Extra Food Should I Eat While Pregnant?

Pregnancy hormones can play havoc with appetite, causing some women to feel famished.  Others are daunted by nausea, vomiting, and fatigue that diminish their desire for food. In both cases, the best strategy is trying as much as possible to adhere to a balanced diet that accounts for physical activity and stage of pregnancy, like the ones offered at

A nutritious pregnancy eating plan with adequate calories -- about 340 more calories each day than your prepregnancy needs, starting in the second trimester, and about 450 more than your prepregnancy diet during the last three months of pregnancy -- should be enough to prevent constant hunger. Women who are particularly physically active during pregnancy may need more calories, however.

A woman pregnant with twins should eat about 440 more calories each day starting in the second trimester, and 500-600 more calories more per day in the last trimester.

Choosing foods that fill you up as part of a balanced pregnancy diet improves eating satisfaction. For example, whole grains, vegetables, and legumes are filled with fiber to keep you fuller for longer, without any extra calories. Drink plenty of fluids; it works with fiber to keep you full and to prevent constipation, a common pregnancy complaint. 

Why Does Pregnancy Weight Gain Vary So Much From Woman to Woman or From Pregnancy to Pregnancy?

It's difficult to understand why some women gain more than the recommended amounts during one pregnancy when they seem to be monitoring every bite, then put on the same amount of weight with the next baby when they pay much less attention to how much they eat. Unless you monitor every morsel you eat and every move you make, it's impossible to chalk up the pregnancy weight gain to anything but pregnancy metabolism.

Women who have struggled with eating disorders may be fearful of gaining weight, even during pregnancy. It's important to discuss your feelings about food with a qualified health care professional. Intentionally restricting calories to keep weight gain low can harm your baby's growth and development. Pregnancy is no time to diet, even if you started off overweight.

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