How to Gain Weight During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman at the dinner table
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Understandably, there is a lot of focus on ensuring that you don't gain too much weight in pregnancy, as over 50% of pregnant people gain more than their weight gain goals. However, some people actually need to gain more weight than they have been gaining. Approximately 20% of pregnant people may not gain enough weight to adequately fuel their growing babies and pregnant bodies.

Additionally, studies show that inadequate weight gain poses serious risks to the baby, including low birth weight, less likelihood of breastfeeding, and increased odds of death in infancy.

If you are underweight and/or having trouble gaining enough weight, here are some tips to help you get your weight gain where it needs to be. Note that you should always consult your doctor or midwife before making any big changes in your eating habits and prior to starting any kind of nutritional supplement.

Eat More Frequently

Sometimes, you don't gain weight in pregnancy because your stomach is so squashed that you can't add extra calories to your meals without feeling ill. By eating smaller, but more frequent meals, you have the ability to add extra calories throughout the day. This can also help with some pregnancy complaints like nausea and heartburn.

Carry Food With You

To help you snack throughout the day, try carrying some food with you. Think portable, calorie-rich foods with no preparation required. For example, pack carrot sticks nuts, or dried fruit. If you have a place to keep food cold, try yogurt or cheese with fruit. Cheddar tastes great on sliced apples or pears.

Fruit makes a perfect snack. Pack a banana or an orange in your purse to remind yourself to eat. Pair it with almonds or another handful of nuts for a boost of protein.

Drink Your Calories

If you are having trouble eating or having trouble getting in calories during the day, consider what you drink as an added way to increase your calories. In fact, it's known that drinking higher-calorie beverages promotes weight gain. An easy way to do this is to swap water for milk or juice.

Prepare and take a smoothie with you and sip it throughout the day. Add protein powder to your shakes for a bit of a caloric punch. It doesn't really taste any different, but it can add calories. Fruit and vegetable smoothies help you get your needed vitamins and minerals as well.

How Much Weight Should You Gain?

Generally speaking, it's recommended that most people gain between 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. It should be a bit more if you were underweight to begin with, and a little bit less if you were overweight when you got pregnant. If you are expecting multiples, you will need to gain more weight, and the weight gain in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy is crucial for healthier babies.

Don't Abandon a Healthy Diet

You might think you should focus on eating fried, processed, and high-fat foods in order to gain weight. However, while It's fine to have occasional sweets and higher fat foods, studies show that underweight pregnant individuals are more likely to reach the optimal pregnancy weight by following a healthy diet, as in in lots of veggies, fruits, lean meats, and whole grains.

Add Supplements

Try adding protein powders to foods for extra calories. They can also be added to shakes. If powdered supplements aren't your thing, then you can also do bars.

There are a ton of nutrition bars out today, including those made specifically for pregnancy. Different products offer a variety of ingredients to meet the needs of almost everyone out there, including vegetarian and vegan options.

A Word From Verywell

Gaining enough (but not too much) weight during pregnancy is important for your health and the health of your baby. If you are concerned about your lack of weight gain, consult your midwife or doctor. They can let you know more exactly how much weight you should aim to gain and help you devise an effective eating plan to reach your goals. If needed, they can also provide a referral to a dietitian or nutritionist.

6 Sources
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.
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Additional Reading

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