How much weight gain is healthy during pregnancy?

- If you're expecting a baby, expect to put on a few extra pounds.

Northside Hospital Women's Center registered dietitian Lauren Cicinelli says weight gain is a normal, healthy part of pregnancy.

"It's actually a good thing because that weight is going towards your baby growing and developing," Cicinelli explains. "It's going toward an expanded blood volume and it's going toward some stores, that, when your baby is born, you're going to need."

Under the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology guidelines, depending on your pre-pregnancy weight, a "healthy" weight gain expectation can range from about 10 to 40 pounds.

The ACOG recommendations are based on a woman's body mass index or BMI going into pregnancy.

Women who are at a normal weight, with a BMI from 18.5 to 24.9, should gain between 25 and 35 pounds, according to the recommendations. Overweight women, with a BMI ranging from 25 to 29.9, should limit their weight gain to 15–25 pounds. Obese women, with a body mass of 30 or greater, should limit weight gain to between 11 and 20 pounds. And, underweight women, with a BMI less than 18.5, may need to gain as much as 28 to 40 pounds during their pregnancy, under the ACOG guidelines.

Cicinelli stresses pregnancy weight gain is an individual thing, and it's different for each woman. She says talk to your doctor about a healthy target weight range for you. And, she says, think about the bigger picture.

"We want to make sure women are focusing on a healthy overall diet," she says. "So, this is going to be a diet that includes things like vegetables and fruits. It includes some sources of protein during the day.  We also want to make sure they're getting whole grains and complex carbohydrates."

Cicinelli recommends pregnant women limit processed foods, which don't have the vitamins and minerals their body needs.

And, sadly, there's no such thing as eating for two. Most pregnant women need only about 300 additional calories a day in their second and third trimesters.  

Cicinelli encourages women to focus on getting a good balance of healthy, fresh food.

"If they're making half their plate vegetables and fruits, a quarter of that plate carbohydrates and a quarter of that plate lean protein, they're less like to gain weight, if we make sure we have that healthy balance throughout the day and throughout our diet," she says.

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