Weight gain: a natural part of pregnancy
Weight gain in pregnancy is healthy, natural and necessary. Aside from the additional weight of your baby and increased fluids, your body gradually lays down some fat stores.
“Your calorie requirement during pregnancy only increases in the third trimester, when you need an extra 200 calories per day.”
During your first and second trimesters your energy needs are the same as before pregnancy. Eating for two simply means maintaining a healthy diet: this will provide your baby with all the nutrients they need to grow and develop. After 28 weeks, you should consume around 200 calories more per day.
How much weight should I gain during pregnancy?
Weight gain during pregnancy depends on your pre-pregnancy weight, and varies a great deal from mother to mother. Most women gain between 10kg and 12.5kg (22–28lb) while pregnant, some of which is the weight of the growing baby.
Putting on too much weight during pregnancy can be unhealthy, but it's important not to diet and instead eat healthily.
The table below1 gives a general guide to healthy weight gain. To determine your BMI, use an online BMI calculator, or your midwife will be able to work it out for you.
A nutritious diet for healthy weight gain in pregnancy
Your diet supplies the wide range of nutrients your baby needs for healthy development. A varied, nutritious intake from all the food groups will provide essential vitamins, minerals, fats and protein while helping you stay within the recommended weight gain guidelines for pregnancy.
If your gestational weight gain is above the recommended levels, your midwife may suggest making some changes so that you gain weight more steadily.
“Choose nutrient-rich foods when it’s time to increase your calorie intake to get the most benefit from your 200 calories.”
When it’s time to increase your calorie intake by 200 per day, be sure to choose foods that are nutritionally rich. Yogurt, for example, provides bone-building calcium while a jacket potato is a good source of fibre and, as a carbohydrate, delivers a boost of energy.
Healthy 200-calorie snack ideas:
- A small pot of low-fat yogurt with seeds and berries
- A small serving of hummus with raw vegetable sticks
- A banana and oat smoothie made with 150ml of milk
- One smoked mackerel fillet, shredded and mixed with natural yogurt, served with two oatcakes2
“Your developing baby is responsive to nutrient changes during their gestational development, which can affect their own ability to utilise nutrients later in life.”
Weight loss during pregnancy
Being overweight before and during pregnancy can put you at greater risk of developing high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. It can also increase your likelihood of premature delivery and birth complications, plus breastfeeding problems, such as being unable to initiate or sustain it3.
However, once you become pregnant it’s not advisable to diet. This is because your developing baby is responsive to nutrient changes during the different stages of their gestational development, which can affect their own ability to utilise nutrients later in life, impacting on obesity in later life4.
Instead, focus on eating healthily, with a good balance across the food groups. A large study has shown that adjusting your diet to maintain a healthy bodyweight in pregnancy (rather than to lose weight) and following a normal balanced diet, is safe, effective and has no consequential effects on the baby’s birth weight5. Learn how to strike the ideal nutritional balance in our diet and development articles.
Being underweight in pregnancy
If you’re underweight, your midwife will be able to advise you on the healthiest ways to gain the additional weight you need. You may need to be monitored closely to check that your baby is growing well. A healthy weight during pregnancy can reduce the risks of preterm birth or a low birth weight baby6.
“Provide the constant nourishment your baby needs by eating small meals and healthy snacks throughout the day.”
Foods containing healthy fats are an excellent source of calories and nutrients. Avocados, nuts and seeds are ideal. Wholegrain varieties of bread and pasta deliver slow-release energy and a healthy serving of fibre7.
Eat little and often throughout the day for a sustained supply of nutrients to your baby.