A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Pregnancy weight gain: Balancing the ups and downs

Weight gain. It’s something most women never want to deal with in their lifetime. Unfortunately, when you are pregnant, gaining weight is inevitable. However, how much weight is too much or too little when you are pregnant?

Photo of a pregnant women talking to her provider

Talk to your women’s health provider if you are concerned about your weight gain during pregnancy.

Dr. Melissa Emmerich, OB/GYN physician with Marshfield Clinic Health System, says every women is different when it comes to weight gain or loss during pregnancy. Many women gain excess pregnancy weight and find it difficult to lose after delivery. Occasionally, with severe hyperemesis gravidarum, women will lose weight or not gain enough weight during pregnancy.

Healthy weight gain recommendations are:

  • If underweight (BMI <18.5) or expecting twins: 28-40 lbs.
  • Normal weight (BMI 18.5-25): 25-35 lbs.
  • Overweight (BMI 25-30): 15-25 lbs.
  • Obese (BMI >30): 11-20 lbs.

Health risks for you and baby

Obese and overweight women can have an increased risk of pregnancy loss, along with other complications like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, which is high blood pressure and damage to organ systems like kidneys.

“Women gain excess weight if they consume too many calories and significantly decrease their activity level during pregnancy,” Emmerich said. “They also are prone to gaining excess weight if they develop gestational diabetes and it is not properly monitored and controlled with lifestyle intervention like dietary modification and possibly medications.”

Calorie intake

During pregnancy, Emmerich recommends about 200-300 extra nutritious calories, and increase that to 500 extra calories for breastfeeding moms.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans estimates the range from 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day for adult women. The number of calories can vary on age, gender, height and weight, and activity level.

“It is particularly helpful to have women limit ‘empty’ calories from sweets, snack foods, fast food, processed foods and high calorie beverages,” Emmerich said. “Better choices for increased appetite are frequent small meals consisting mostly of proteins, dairy, vegetables and fruits.”

Stay active

She also encourages women to continue physical activity throughout pregnancy. Here are some prenatal myths and facts about workout routines. Sports likely to increase injury risk, such as downhill skiing, horseback riding, water skiing, boxing or heavy weight lifting, should be avoided.

Talk to your women’s health provider or schedule an appointment with a dietitian if you have concerns about weight gain during pregnancy.

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