Gaining too much weight during pregnancy may cause problems.
You may be eating for two and craving pickles and ice cream, but pregnancy isn't a weight gain free-for-all. Sure, you'll have to gain weight to support your growing baby, but excessive pregnancy weight gain can cause problems for you and your baby. Knowing how much you should gain and how to keep your baby weight under control can add up to a healthy pregnancy.
Women who fall within the normal weight range for their height and body type should aim to gain no more than 35 lbs. during pregnancy, according to MayoClinic.com. Overweight and obese women should gain even less -- a maximum of 25 lbs. for overweight women and no more than 20 lbs. for obese women. If you were underweight before becoming pregnant, your doctor may recommend you gain more weight but will typically limit your total weight gain to less than 40 lbs.
Gaining too much weight during pregnancy puts you at risk for health problems including high blood pressure and gestational diabetes, explains Nora Saul, registered dietitian and manager of nutrition services at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston on HealthyWomen.com. Either of these conditions can catapult your pregnancy into the high-risk category.
Pregnancy weight gain breaks down into fairly predictable increments. Around 7 to 8 lbs. of your pregnancy weight is your baby. Your growing breasts can add up to 3 lbs. and your larger uterus as much as 2 lbs. Your placenta and amniotic fluid account for about 3 1/2 lbs. of your weight gain, while increased blood and fluid in your body can add up to 8 lbs. to your total weight. The rest of your weight gain is just fat -- and while you need 6 to 8 lbs. of extra fat stores during pregnancy, more than that adds up to excessive weight gain.
What constitutes excessive weight gain can vary significantly by trimester. Gaining a lot of weight in your first trimester is usually a warning sign for excessive weight gain since your pregnancy weight gain should be fairly low during the first trimester. During the second trimester, your weight gain should average no more than 1 to 1 1/2 lbs. per week and increase just slightly during the third trimester.
To manage weight gain during your pregnancy, talk to your doctor about a healthy diet and exercise plan. Most women need to add only about 300 calories to their daily diet during pregnancy, explains MayoClinic.com. Get those calories from nutrient-dense foods like whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean proteins, and fruits and vegetables for maximum health benefits. Adding exercise to your daily routine will also help you keep from gaining too much weight -- and as a bonus, may help make your labor a little easier.
Holly L. Roberts:
Holly Roberts is an award-winning health and fitness writer whose work has appeared in health, lifestyle and fitness magazines. Roberts has also worked as an editor for health association publications and medical journals. She has been a professional writer for more than 10 years and holds a B.A. in English and an M.A. in literature.