Weight Gain: How Much Should I Really Gain During Pregnancy?
Have you ever wondered how much weight gain is “too much” during pregnancy? During my fourth pregnancy, I was complaining to one of my family members about how much weight I had already gained. Aside from worrying about losing the weight after the baby was born, I was incredibly uncomfortable and still had several months to go of my pregnancy.
“Don't worry,” she assured me. “I gained over 70 pounds with all of my pregnancies.” Looking at her, without an overweight bone in her body, I was incredulous. No way had she gained that much! But she swore it was true. And honestly, I believe her because if my time as an OB nurse and a mother to four kids myself has taught me anything, it's that there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to motherhood and pregnancy.
Some women truly only gain a “basketball” bump, sporting that adorable all-baby-belly and others seem to gain weight in places that make no sense, like their feet and ears and nose (been there) and still others end their pregnancies weighing less than when they got pregnant. Some women don't even gain enough weight while pregnant. The truth is, weight isn't always a sign of how healthy we are and it can be hard to know exactly how much weight is really “safe” to gain while pregnant.
Honestly, I'm kind of sick of hearing so much about what women should weigh and I think it's incredibly harmful and outdated to focus so much on a woman's weight. But there are a few important notes to keep in mind about pregnancy weight gain.
There's a reason behind doctors tracking your weight
Contrary to how it feels, your doctor isn't making you step on the scale at every pregnancy appointment just to torture you or make you feel bad about that pan of brownies you ate last night. (Also been there.) There really is a method behind the madness of tracking your weight. Your doctor tracks how much weight you gain to ensure that there isn't an unforeseen problem with the baby, your amniotic fluid, or even you. A sudden, drastic and unexpected weight gain could signal a complication, such as a problem with the baby's development or a dangerous condition called preeclampsia that can cause swelling.
There are official recommendations
Turns out, that infamous “recommended” range of 25 to 35 pounds comes from the actual American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. And it's not just a number they randomly pulled out of their hats. It's a number associated with the least amount of complications for women during pregnancy. Of course, there are many things that can happen during pregnancy and your weight alone doesn't determine that. But maintaining a healthy weight gain based on the weight you started with during your pregnancy can help you minimize complications.
The recommended weight gain range set by the ACOG goes by your starting weight and BMI and also goes by a rate per trimester. For example, it's normal to gain more during your second and third trimesters because that's when your baby is growing larger too. The ACOG recommends the following weights:
- Underweight: 20-40 pounds
- Normal weight: 25-35
- Overweight: 15-25
- Obese: 11-20
Weight doesn't equal health
Just like how much you weigh outside of pregnancy can't really tell you much about how healthy you are overall, what you weigh during pregnancy isn't an accurate reflection on your health or your baby's health either. You could be a very healthy weight and have serious complications like preterm labor or a medical condition with your baby. Or you could be overweight and sail through pregnancy with no issues. Weight is not everything and health is multi-dimensional. So, if you're struggling with how much you're gaining, please keep that in mind.
Help is available
Honestly, I felt frustrated with how much weight I gained during my pregnancy, mostly because I felt so out of control. I didn't like feeling like I couldn't control anything with my body and as a result, just kind of gave up. I think it's worth remembering that mental health plays a big role during our overall health during pregnancy and that watching those numbers climb, knowing you can't do anything to stop them, can be hard for women, especially when we've been taught our whole lives to determine our worth by what we weigh.
Looking back, I wish I would have been more proactive about my health as a whole. My advice? Throw out the scale and focus on practical ways to stay healthy during your pregnancy. Ask your doctor if you can get a referral to a nutritionist, especially if you have gestational diabetes, sign up for a meal delivery program that can give you proportioned food, and don't be afraid to hire help, like a personal trainer or a house cleaner so you can hit the gym instead, to help you stay healthy. Investing more in your health during pregnancy means saving yourself time, money, and avoiding complications at birth and postpartum, so don't be afraid to spend a little extra money during your pregnancy if it means keeping both you and your baby healthy.
Are you happy with your weight gain during pregnancy so far?