Pregnancy Nutrition Guidelines

Weight Gain During Pregnancy

Despite previous reports, gaining weight during pregnancy is healthy.
Despite previous reports, gaining weight during pregnancy is healthy.
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From the early 1950s until the early 1970s, pregnant women were advised to gain only 10 to 15 pounds during pregnancy. Limited weight gain was thought to help keep the baby's weight low to reduce problems with delivery of a large baby and to avoid the matter of a mother having to lose weight after the birth of her child.

Concern about adequate weight gain during pregnancy was highlighted by the Task Force on Mental Retardation commissioned by President Kennedy in 1962. The task force found that prematurity and low birth weight were major factors in infant mortality (death) and morbidity (disease). Their findings led to the development of the federal Maternal and Infant Care Program, which stressed the importance of good nutrition during pregnancy.

Since that time, many researchers have focused on the relationship of prepregnancy weight and weight gain to pregnancy outcome. We now know that poor weight gain, especially in the third trimester, is associated with low birth weight and neurologic deficits in the baby. Low birth weight is associated with a higher incidence of infant mortality and morbidity, mental retardation, and learning disabilities.

Research has also shown that large women tend to produce large babies. The birth size of an infant is related to the size of the mother and is not influenced greatly by the size of the father.

How does all this information affect recommendations for weight gain during pregnancy? Advice about weight gain for pregnant women today reflects an individualized approach based on the mother's height and her prepregnancy weight, and whether the mother is a teenager or is pregnant with more than one baby.

You will be advised to gain weight during pregnancy. If you are underweight, you will probably be encouraged to gain approximately 28 to 40 pounds. If your weight is normal, you will ideally gain between 25 and 35 pounds. If you are overweight (weigh more than 35 percent above the ideal body weight), you may be urged to gain between 15 and 25 pounds. If you are pregnant with more than one baby, you will be advised to gain an even greater amount of weight. If you are a teenager, you will need special guidance to get enough calories and nutrients to satisfy your own growth needs as well as the needs of your developing baby.

Where does the weight gain during pregnancy go? Some goes to the growth of your baby and some goes to the body changes necessary to support your pregnancy.

Weight gain during pregnancy occurs in a predictable pattern. You will gain only a little weight the first trimester and will have a more rapid gain during the second and third trimesters.

Keeping track of your weight gain helps your doctor detect potential problems. If weight gain is too slow, your doctor may recommend nutrition counseling. If weight gain suddenly rises, especially in the latter part of pregnancy, it may be the result of edema (swelling), which could indicate preeclampsia (a disorder characterized by elevated blood pressure, edema, and kidney malfunction), or it may be the result of extra calorie consumption or decreased activity.

Morning sickness in early pregnancy may affect weight gain temporarily. Continued vomiting throughout pregnancy is more serious and requires treatment. Your activity level may also affect weight gain during pregnancy.

Today, an increasing number of women must worry about the effects of anorexia or bulimia on their pregnancy. Women who are or have been anorexic or bulimic may have a difficult time accepting the weight gain and body changes that are a normal part of pregnancy. Counseling can be very helpful. Most large metropolitan areas have bulimia and anorexia support groups. Since eating well is so critical during pregnancy, getting help is crucial.

There is a wide variation in weight gain and pattern of weight gain among pregnant women. The weight gain suggestions reflect average weight gain ranges and are a guide for you and your doctor. Your weight gain may not follow these guidelines, but if you are making an effort to eat a high-quality, balanced diet with adequate calories, you can feel comfortable knowing you are doing what you can to ensure both your and your baby's health. Read about good nutrition during pregnancy in the next section.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.