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A Look At Weight Gain During Pregnancy

By Carolyn M. Clancy, MD

A Look At Weight Gain During Pregnancy

So, you’re pregnant. Congratulations! This is a very special time in your life. It’s also, I recognize, an anxious time. Pregnancy-related issues that are not strictly health-related – including preparation for your child’s homecoming, finances and balancing family and work life once your baby is born – all weigh heavily on your mind.

You’re also, understandably, concerned about your baby’s health. You and your healthcare providers will spend a great deal of time in the coming months talking about things that can affect the health of your baby – such as whether to take folic acid supplements, acceptable amounts of fish or caffeine in your diet or whether certain activities are safe for the baby.

You’ll also spend some time talking about how much weight to gain. Women have long been concerned about how much weight to gain during pregnancy. Some of this concern, unfortunately, is cultural – the fear of appearing fat. But health concerns also drive a good deal of this worry, as they should.

Some weight gain during pregnancy is appropriate. But pregnancy isn’t license to break out the bonbons, either. There is such a thing as too much weight gain during pregnancy. There’s also great risk in gaining too little weight.

Your mother or grandmother might be surprised by what’s recommended. There was a time when the medical community used to think that the higher the weight gain, the greater the birth weight of the baby, and that bigger babies automatically came with greater risk of complications. But we’ve come to understand that the amount of weight each woman should gain, as well as its impact on her baby’s health, may be different depending on her weight before pregnancy and other factors.

In fact, recent studies have demonstrated that there is great risk associated with gaining too little weight during pregnancy. There’s great risk in gaining too much weight, too, so it’s important to stay within the recommended range.

Talk with your healthcare provider about these ranges. Work with her or him to devise a pregnancy diet plan that works for you. It’s a challenge to balance the amount of weight gain needed to ensure your health and that of your baby – so it’s important that you engage your healthcare team to achieve that balance.

Healthy weight gain in pregnancy

So, how much weight should you gain? It depends on how much you weigh now. First, calculate your body mass index, or BMI. (An online BMI calculator can be found here). Then, use the chart below to determine the appropriate amount of weight to gain during pregnancy:


BMIAppropriate weight to gain during pregnancy
Underweight28-40 pounds
Normal25-35 pounds
Overweight15-25 pounds
Obese11-20 pounds


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