Healthy Pregnancy

Weight Gain During Pregnancy

On average, a healthy amount of weight gain during pregnancy is 22-35 pounds for normal weight women. This is usually reached by gaining 4-6 pounds during the first trimester, and about two-thirds to one pound a week during the second and third trimesters.

Where does this weight come from?

According to the Nemours Foundation, this is how a 30-pound pregnancy weight gain is typically distributed:

  • 7.5 pounds: your baby’s weight
  • 1.5 pounds: the placenta
  • 2 pounds: enlargement of your uterus
  • 2 pounds: amniotic fluid surrounding your baby
  • 2 pounds: breast enlargement
  • 4 pounds: your extra blood
  • 2-7 pounds: your extra stored nutrients
  • 1-4 pounds: your extra body fluids

Keep in mind that pregnancy weight gain may vary.

  • If you are underweight, you should gain 27-35+ pounds.
  • If you are overweight, you should gain 15-25 pounds.
  • If you are obese, you should gain about 15 pounds or less.

If you are having multiples (eg, twins, triplets), you will gain more weight, so talk to your doctor about the amount of weight gain that will be best for you.

If you gain too much weight during pregnancy, you will be at increased risk of complications, including:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • constipation
  • back pain

In addition, your labor and delivery may be longer and more difficult. You may also be at increased risk of needing a cesarean section . If you don’t gain enough weight, your baby will not get the nutrients needed to grow and develop properly.

Diet During Pregnancy

Eating a healthy diet and staying active during your pregnancy will not only benefit your growing baby, but it can also help you look and feel better. It can even help your labor and delivery go smoother, and make it easier to get back into shape after you have your baby.

Eating Well for You and Your Baby

Eating a variety of nutritious foods can help keep you and your baby healthy while you are pregnant. In general, aim to follow the latest version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans . You do not need extra calories during your first trimester. But, you should be getting about 300 extra calories per day during your second and third trimesters to reach a total of about 1,900-2,500 calories a day.

These extra calories should come from nutritious foods. Examples of snacks that contain about 300 calories include:

  • one cup of nonfat fruit yogurt and a medium apple
  • a piece of whole wheat toast with two tablespoons of peanut butter
  • or one cup of whole grain cereal with ½ cup of nonfat milk and a small banana

In addition to extra calories, you will need to increase certain nutrients, including folate and iron .

Folate is important because it can prevent neural tube defects, like spina bifida . Taking folate and iron may offer additional benefits, like reducing the number of infants born with low birth weight and reducing infant mortality.

Your doctor will recommend that you take a prenatal supplement to make sure you are getting enough of these nutrients. You can also eat foods high in folate and iron, like fortified breads and cereals, spinach, and broccoli.

Extra calcium is also needed during pregnancy to protect your bone density and help your baby’s bones grow. You should consume the equivalent of three cups of milk per day to get the calcium you need (1 cup milk = 1 cup lowfat yogurt or 1.5 ounces lowfat cheese).

You also need to get enough iron. It helps your and your baby’s blood carry oxygen. Iron-rich foods include lean red meats, enriched grain products, eggs, leafy green vegetables, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beans and peas, raisins, prunes, and peanuts.

There are certain things you should avoid consuming when you are pregnant, including:

  • Alcohol —There is no established safe level of alcohol during pregnancy. Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages while you are pregnant. 
  • Fish that may have high levels of methylmercury —Avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish while pregnant. These fish have high levels of methylmercury, which could harm your baby. You can safely consume up to 12 ounces of fish that is lower in methylmercury (eg, shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, catfish). Eat no more than six ounces of canned albacore (white) tuna or tuna steaks per week. Farm-raised fish may contain elevated levels of dioxin. 
  • Soft cheeses and cold lunch meats, hot dogs, and deli meats —Soft cheeses (eg, Brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, Mexican-style soft cheese), cold lunch meats, hot dogs, and deli meats can contain bacteria that can harm your unborn baby. 
  • Raw fish, meat, or poultry —These foods can result in food poisoning that may cause harm to your baby. 
  • Nonfood items —Some pregnant women crave nonfood products, such as cornstarch or clay. This condition is called pica . You should avoid consuming these things and tell your doctor if you are having cravings for nonfood items. 
  • You should also consider limiting your intake of caffeine. There is conflicting evidence about the harmful effects of caffeine. Caffeine has been reported to be associated with an increased risk of miscarriage . Most healthcare professionals believe that a cup or two of coffee per day will not harm your baby. Limiting your caffeine consumption during your entire pregnancy may be advisable, since we do not have full knowledge about the safety of caffeine. 

If you are a vegetarian, are lactose intolerant, or have other dietary restrictions, consult your doctor or a dietitian. Advice can be given to help you plan a well-balanced, healthy diet to fit your lifestyle and needs.

Exercise During Pregnancy

Exercise has many benefits during pregnancy. It can help:

  • relieve aches and pains,
  • reduce constipation ,
  • strengthen your joints,
  • and help you sleep better.

It can also help you feel better about the way you look, prepare you for labor and delivery, and help you return to your pre-pregnancy body more quickly after your baby is born. For almost all women, exercise is safe throughout pregnancy. However, you should always discuss exercising with your doctor before you start.

If your pregnancy is high-risk (eg, if you have pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, early contractions, vaginal bleeding, or are at risk of miscarriage or premature birth ), your doctor may advise you to limit or avoid exercise. If you were already exercising regularly before you became pregnant, you should be able to continue doing so during your pregnancy.You will likely need to make adjustments as your body and energy level change.

Some studies indicate that you can safely start an exercise program during pregnancy even if you did not exercise regularly before your pregnancy. But it is especially important to talk to your doctor before doing this, because you will need to gradually add exercise into your routine.

If your doctor has cleared you to exercise during your pregnancy, you should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity (eg, walking, swimming, aerobic dancing) on most days of the week. You should stop exercising if you feel fatigue, dizziness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, or back or pelvic pain. You should be able to talk while you are exercising and should keep your heart rate below 160 beats per minute.

Avoid becoming overheated by not overdoing it on hot days. Avoid exercising outside from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm during hot months. Certain exercises, including contact sports, downhill skiing, scuba diving, and horseback riding, should be avoiding because of the risk of injury. Also avoid activities that include bouncing, jarring, sudden changes in direction, and risk of abdominal injury. Avoid or modify exercises done on your back such as sit-ups and some types of yoga. These exercises may be uncomfortable. They can also limit blood flow to your baby.