You might have heard your mom complaining about having to “eat for two” while she is pregnant — and that she is getting a big heavier as the pregnancy goes on!  Some weight gain is a normal part of pregnancy, but the “eating for two” is a myth that can lead to trouble if too much weight is gained.  Let’s take a look at some of the rules for health weight gain during pregnancy.

Do Pregnant Women Need More Calories?

Yes, pregnant women do need more calories to help support the growing baby — but not as many calories as some might think! Overall, it is estimated that a woman needs 300 extra calories a day while she is pregnant. But the trick is that they have to come in the form of good-quality food (like fruits and veggies, whole grains, leans meats and low-fat dairy products). In other words, 300 extra calories a day from candy bars or potato chips won’t do mom or baby very much good!

How Much is Enough?

So how much is it safe to gain during pregnancy?  Well, that depends on a woman’s overall weight at the time that she gets pregnant:

  • Women who are underweight to begin with should try to gain around 28-40 pounds during the pregnancy; it is best to gain 1 ½ to 4 pounds in the first trimester and then a little over 1 pound per week for the rest of the pregnancy.
  • Women are at a normal weight when they get pregnant should gain between 25 and 35 pounds during the pregnancy. Generally it is best to gain between 1 ½ and 4 pounds in the first trimester, then right at 1 pound a week after that.
  • Women who are overweight when they get pregnant should try to gain 15-25 pounds during the pregnancy, starting out with 1 ½ to 4 pounds the first trimester and then gaining around ½ pound per week for the last two trimesters.
  • Women who are obese when they become pregnant should gain no more than 15 pounds during the pregnancy, between 1 ½ to 4 pounds the first trimester, then less than ½ a pound a week after that.

In short, it is better to gain weight slowly and steadily — and women should also talk to the doctor if they feel they are gaining too much or not enough.

What Happens if You Gain Too Much Weight — or Not Enough?

Having weight goals — and sticking to them — while pregnant is important for mom and baby both.  Gaining too little weight during pregnancy puts the baby at a higher risk for low birth weight.  Gaining too much increases the risk for larger-than-normal birth weight or premature birth for babies and problems with blood sugar and/or blood pressure for the mom. That is why it is important for a woman to discuss her concerns if she feels she is gaining too much or too little.

What if Weight Goals aren’t Being Met?

The good thing is that if weight goals aren’t being met, there are tips that women can follow to either increase their weight gain (if they aren’t gaining enough) or to slow weight gain down (if they are gaining too quickly).

If a woman needs to put on extra weight, she can:

  • Eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day
  • Eat snacks
  • Make sure snacks are high quality (and high calorie), such as peanut butter and whole wheat bread or cheese and whole wheat crackers. Yogurt and healthy ice creams make good snacks as well.
  • Add powdered milk to dishes like scrambled eggs or mashed potatoes; this won’t really change the way these dishes taste but it will add to their calories.
  • Add extras to the meal like high-quality butter or sour cream, gravies, sauces and other condiments that will also add calories.

On the other hand, if a doctor suggests that a women slow down her weight gain during pregnancy, she can:

  • Avoid fried or fatty foods and opt for foods that are baked, boiled, or roasted (for example, having a baked potato would be a healthier choice than having French fries!)
  • Avoid whole-fat dairy products and getting low-fat ones instead (like buying 2% milk instead of whole milk)
  • Stay away from sugary drinks — and sugar in general, unless it is coming from fresh fruit or other healthy sources.
  • Avoid adding salt to foods, as salt can cause water weight gain — and spike up blood pressure levels.
  • Opt for whole grains, lean meats, and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Where Does All the Weight Go?

At this point you might be wondering just where all the extra pregnancy weight goes! According to the WebMd site, extra weight from the pregnancy is due to:

  • The baby (an average of 8 pounds)
  • The placenta, or special sac where the baby will grow (2-3 pounds)
  • Amniotic fluids that fill the placenta (2-3 pounds)
  • Breast tissue (2-3 pounds)
  • Increased blood volume (4 pounds)
  • Stored fat (5-9 pounds)
  • Larger uterus (2-5 pounds)

So now you know more about why your mom is going to put on some weight while she is pregnant. The good news is that a woman who doesn’t gain more weight than she should and who exercises during pregnancy will find that losing the extra “baby weight” and getting back to her pre-pregnancy figure is a lot easier to do!