Skip to Main Content
Mature multiethnic couple in kitchen

Eating for Two? Maintaining a Healthy Pregnancy Weight

By Lauren Anderson, MD October 13, 2020 Posted in: Women's Health

You are pregnant! Congrats! Along with many other questions you have, one of the topics that should interest you is weight gain in pregnancy! You are indeed eating to help nourish another little life, but should you actually be "eating enough for two?" You will gain weight, but how much is healthy and what are the dangers of too much weight gain? It's good to know the answers to these questions early in your pregnancy or even before becoming pregnant. 

Common Questions About Pregnancy Weight Gain

How Much Extra Food Should I be Eating?

While your body is super busy working on the development of that little miracle inside of you, the truth is you should not be doubling your intake of food. In fact, you only should consume a total of 300 extra calories daily during pregnancy. 

What is the Optimal Amount of Weight Gain?

Optimal weight gain during pregnancy can help contribute to an overall healthier experience when welcoming a baby into the world. The amount of weight you should gain during pregnancy depends on what your weight is prior to pregnancy.

  • Underweight women (BMI less than 18.5) should gain 28-40 lbs.
  • Normal weight women (BMI 18.5-24.9) should gain 25-35 lbs.
  • Overweight women (BMI 25-29.9) should gain 15-25 lbs.
  • Obese women (BMI greater than 30) should gain 11-20 lbs.

Keep in mind that the weight you gain during pregnancy should be lost prior to becoming pregnant again. If not, over multiple pregnancies you could potentially gain an excessive amount of weight that could impact your health negatively.

Does Being Obese Put Me at Risk in Pregnancy?

Obesity (BMI greater than 30) during pregnancy puts you at risk for certain serious health conditions. This includes gestational diabetes which is when a mother develops diabetes during pregnancy. This can put you at risk of having a cesarean delivery and risk of complications to baby due to the gestational diabetes.

Obesity in pregnancy can also put you at risk for elevated blood pressure which can range from gestational hypertension all the way to preeclampsia and eclampsia. These are serious conditions in which your liver and kidney may be affected. In rare cases stroke can occur. Obesity in pregnancy can also put you at risk for sleep apnea. This can lead to fatigue as well as elevated blood pressure, preeclampsia and heart and lung disorders.

What About the Baby?

Obesity increases your risk of pregnancy loss compared to women of normal weight. It can also increase the risk of your baby having birth defects, including heart and neural tube defects. Obesity in pregnancy can make diagnostic tests such as ultrasound less accurate. Obesity also puts your baby at risk for macrosomia (baby is larger than normal), which puts baby at risk for injury during delivery and increases the risk of C-section. Because obesity puts you at increased risk for medical complications during pregnancy, you are also at increased risk of having a preterm delivery due to these medical conditions. Finally, the higher a pregnant woman’s BMI is, the higher the risk of stillbirth.

Exercise During Pregnancy is Okay?

Yes! Regular physical activity during all stages of life, including pregnancy, has many benefits. If you have never exercised before pregnancy, this is not the time to train for a marathon. Most activities are okay but talk to your doctor about specifics. Generally, exercise for 30 minutes, five days a week is encouraged. While exercising, keep your heart rate under 160.  If you have a medical condition that complicates your pregnancy, such as elevated blood pressure, it’s even more important to talk to your doctor before exercising while pregnant.

Thinking About Becoming Pregnant? Consider this:

If you are overweight or obese this is a great time to lose weight. Even losing a small amount (5-7%) of your body weight can improve your health and make for an overall healthier pregnancy.

If you have concerns about weight, want to review your medications or just have questions about pregnancy in general, I always encourage you to reach out to your doctor’s office for a preconception appointment. Your doctor can address your questions or concerns before you embark on such an important journey.

For more information, reach out to one of our CHI Health Women's Health providers.

Lauren Anderson, MD
Lauren Anderson, MD

Lauren Anderson, MD is an OB-GYN provider with CHI Health.

Related Articles

Women’s Hearts Break, Too: Lifesaving Advice for Every Age

MAR 28, 2024

Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women and men, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined.

Read More

Is Pain During Intercourse Normal?

FEB 26, 2024

Dyspareunia is a condition that is experienced by 40 million American women. It can happen at all stages of a woman's life.

Read More

Sounding the Alarm: Eating Disorders on the Rise

FEB 15, 2024

An estimated 9% of the US population will have an eating disorder in their lifetime. That’s nearly one in 10, or 28.8 million Americans.

Read More