Eating for Two: Fact or Fiction? Maintaining a Healthy Weight During Pregnancy

We’ve all heard the common saying that a pregnant woman is “eating for two” and therefore should eat as much as she likes while she’s expecting. Unfortunately for those of us who appreciate any good reason to indulge in extra helpings, this is a prevalent myth. While gaining weight is a normal and expected part of a healthy pregnancy, gaining too much or trying to lose weight while pregnant can pose risks to both mom and baby. Your Women’s Health Connecticut provider can help you determine a safe weight range and advise you on nutrition and exercise throughout your pregnancy.

Why it matters

Unfortunately, being overweight or obese can complicate your ability to become pregnant and may even hamper the effectiveness of some fertility treatments. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight range before becoming pregnant is ideal, however we realize that this isn’t always realistic or possible for everyone. If you begin your pregnancy with a body mass index (BMI) in the overweight or obese range, managing your weight gain during pregnancy can help you avoid the following complications:

Potential complications for mom

Potential complications for baby

  • Premature birth
  • Larger birth weight which can complicate delivery
  • Birth defects
  • Stillbirth

Monitoring your weight during pregnancy

No matter your BMI at the onset of your pregnancy, your Women’s Health Connecticut maternity team will help you monitor and manage your weight to keep potential risks to a minimum. At each prenatal visit, your weight will be checked to help track your baby’s growth. If your provider notices changes that are not ideal for you, they will advise you on lifestyle changes and suggest resources that can help. When pregnant with one baby, the following table can be helpful for understanding how much weight you can expect to gain throughout your pregnancy:

Weight Before Pregnancy Body Mass Index (BMI) Weight You Should Gain When Pregnant Weight Gain Per Week (in the 2 & 3 Trimester)
Underweight BMI of less than 18.5 28-40 pounds 1-1.3 pounds
Normal Weight BMI 18.5-24.9 25-35 pounds 0.8-1 pound
Overweight BMI 25.0-29.9 15-25 pounds 0.6 pound
Obese BMI 30.0 or more 11-20 pounds 0.5 pound

 

For help monitoring your weight gain, download Women’s Health Connecticut’s signature pregnancy app, NURTURE. In-app tools including weight and blood pressure trackers help you navigate your health and learn about the changes your body is going through.

If you have a history of disordered eating, we understand that closely monitoring your calorie intake and weighing yourself can be triggering. Be sure to share your experience with your Women’s Health Connecticut maternity team. Your provider can recommend resources to provide emotional support and help you maintain a healthy mindset about your weight during pregnancy and beyond.

Nutrition

Your provider will recommend a balanced diet that includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and dairy products. It’s best to avoid solid fats and added sugars as well. According to the CDC, women who are overweight before pregnancy should follow these calorie recommendations:

First trimester (weeks 1 – 12)
No extra calories are needed.

Second trimester (weeks 13 – 24)
Between 200 and 400 extra calories are needed per day.

This looks like:

  • 1 slice of whole wheat bread with ½ an avocado (200 calories)
  • 1 apple with 2 tbsp almond butter (290 calories)
  • 1 cup of chopped chicken (335 calories)

Third trimester (weeks 25 – 42)
About 400 extra calories are needed per day.

Fitness

Most pregnant women should plan to exercise for 150 minutes each week. Participating in moderate- intensity aerobic activities (such as quick walking or water aerobics) can help you reach this goal. Always check with your provider to make sure any particular exercise regimen is safe for you. Read our Doc Talk article on pregnancy and exercise for more suggestions.

 

Sources:

www.signifyhealth.com

CDC. Weight gain during pregnancy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pregnancy-weight-gain.htm. Accessed June 13, 2021.

Being overweight during pregnancy. March of Dimes website. https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/being-overweight-during-pregnancy.aspx. Accessed June 13, 2021.

ACOG. Obesity and pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/obesity-and-pregnancy. Updated May 2021. Accessed June 13, 2021.