Weighting for Your New Arrival

"How much weight should I gain?" That's one of the top questions expectant mothers ask. In the last twenty-six weeks of pregnancy, your baby will grow fast, gaining about 1 ounce every day. Besides "baby weight," the weight you gain supports changes in your body and helps prepare you for breast-feeding.

Appropriate weight gain helps ensure a healthy outcome. In fact, your baby's birthweight depends on your weight gain during pregnancy. If you don't gain enough, your chance for delivering a low-birthweight infant goes up. Babies who weigh less than 51/2 pounds at birth are at greater risk for developmental difficulties and health problems. Gain too much? Both delivery and returning to your prepregnancy weight may be more difficult. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy has been linked to rising obesity rates among women. And for women with a BMI >26 for pregnancy, excessive weight gain increases an infant's risk for being large-for-gestational-age, which is linked to excess body fat during childhood.

If you were dieting for weight loss before pregnancy, put that regimen aside for these nine months. Pregnancy is not a good time to skimp on calories, follow a weight-loss diet, or restrict weight gain!

How much should you expect to gain during pregnancy? Because every woman is unique, your doctor will advise you about the weight-gain range that's right for you. That advice depends on:

  • Your weight before pregnancy. For a healthy pregnancy outcome, here's the general guideline for weight gain for prepregnancy BMIs:
  • BMI <19.8: 28 to 40 pounds
  • BMI 19.8 to 26: 25 to 35 pounds
  • BMI >26 to 29: 15 to 25 pounds
  • BMI >29: 15 pounds

Talk to your doctor about what's right for you. A healthcare professional can help calculate your Body Mass Index. For more about healthy prepregnancy weight see chapter 2.

  • Your height. Because all women are different, a range of weight gain is recommended—not just one targeted weight. For instance, very short women (62 inches or less) should aim for the lower end of the range for weight gain.
  • Your age. Young teens (until age eighteen), who are at greater risk for delivering low-birthweight babies, are encouraged to gain at the higher end of the weight-gain range. Pregnancy puts greater demands on their own growing, developing bodies. For more on teenage pregnancy, see "For Pregnant Teens: Good Nutrition " in this chapter.
  • Expecting multiples? Regardless of your BMI, your doctor may recommend a 35 - to 45-pound weight gain for twins, and a 50-pound weight gain for triplets.
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