Recommended Weight Gain in Pregnancy

Pregnant woman
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In today's culture, we can't help but be concerned about weight. And often, this attitude extends to the realm of pregnancy weight gain. But when it comes to pregnancy, it's important to consider suggested guidelines based on individual needs.

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Suggested Weight Gain During Pregnancy Based on BMI

No matter what you weigh prior to pregnancy, you must gain some weight. Women who are considered to be clinically obese still need to gain a minimum of 11 pounds, while women who are underweight need to gain more than 25-35 pounds. Here is the suggested pregnancy weight gain based on BMI: 

  • Normal BMI (20 to 24) - gain 25 to 35 pounds
  • Underweight BMI (Less than 20) - gain 28 to 40 pounds
  • Overweight BMI (25 to 29) - gain 15 to 25 pounds
  • Obese BMI (over 30) - gain 11 to 20 pound

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a dated, biased measure that doesn’t account for several factors, such as body composition, ethnicity, race, gender, and age.

Despite being a flawed measure, BMI is widely used today in the medical community because it is an inexpensive and quick method for analyzing potential health status and outcomes.

And these figures are for healthy women carrying a single baby. Moms who are expecting multiples will need to gain even more weight, although no standards have been devised for these special needs as a whole.

Why gain weight? Women who deprive themselves of good nutrition during pregnancy tend to have smaller babies who end up requiring more hospital time, and who have a higher incidence of problems, including neonatal death.

How should you gain weight? Just because you're eating for two doesn't mean you should eat twice as much. In general, you do not need to add any more than 200-300 calories a day to your present diet. Rather, it's what you eat that really counts. Your diet should be nutrient-dense, full of good things for you and your baby. This means that, at snack time, you should reach for fresh fruit instead of a candy bar. 

Weight Gain by Trimester

Most women will notice a slight weight gain at the beginning of pregnancy, usually about four pounds during the first trimester. Some of this is water weight, and some are the materials needed to help your baby grow. Your baby is still very tiny at the end of this trimester. 

The majority of weight gain will be spread out over the last two trimesters, about a pound a week, with a little more at the end.

It is also quite common to notice a cessation of weight gain, and perhaps even a slight weight loss, at the very end of your pregnancy.

Why Wouldn't I Want to Lose Weight?

Losing weight during pregnancy is not recommended, as the loss of weight is associated with the burning of fat stores that may contain harmful substances for the baby. You can, however, gain muscle as you gestate. Talk to your practitioner about working out and exercising.

What If I'm Overweight?

Being overweight does not mean you cannot have a healthy pregnancy, though research shows that obese women do have a greater tendency toward problems during their pregnancy, including high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and an increased incidence of miscarriage. Still, you should gain at least 11 pounds during your pregnancy.

What If I'm Underweight?

Underweight women will sometimes have fertility problems due to lower body fat ratios. Try adding more calories to your diet. If you do so in a healthy manner, you will not need to worry about postpartum excess weight. Snack throughout the day in a healthy manner, remembering that yogurt, cheese, and grains are easy and great for you and your baby. Your minimum weight gain in pregnancy should be about 28 pounds.

Postpartum Weight

What and how you gained will have an effect on your postpartum weight loss. If you followed the guidelines above, you should be in good shape.

And remember that breastfeeding will use up the stores of fat deposited by pregnancy very quickly, as it takes 1,000 - 1,500 calories a day to produce milk.

If you gained more than you needed, you will have more work to do, but all is not hopeless. Exercise postpartum is very beneficial for a lot of reasons, including:

  • Weight loss
  • Muscle building (for carrying your growing baby)
  • Flexibility
  • Relief from depression
  • Increasing self-esteem

Remember, weight gain does not mean you are getting fat. Rather, you are growing a baby, something that requires calories (energy). Make what you eat count twice as much and you will reap the rewards of a healthy baby.

Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.