Skip to main content

Healthy Weight Gain in Pregnancy

A patient once asked me if she could eat a piece of chocolate every day while she was pregnant. At about 75 calories each for a Lindt chocolate truffle, well, technically she could.

The key to a healthy pregnancy is exercise and nutritious eating… there’s no surprise there. But there is also a third factor to consider – metabolism – over which you really have no control.

Women of all shapes and sizes have different experiences when they are pregnant. On average, a pregnant woman only needs about 300 extra calories a day.

A balanced diet includes about 5 to 6 ounces of protein, 6 to 8 servings of whole grains (1/3 c to ½ cup); 2 to 3 servings of fruits, 2 to 3 servings of vegetables and 2 to 3 cups of milk. While too much fat can cause heart disease and other health problems, it’s essential to your intestinal function. Olive oil – no more than 2 tablespoons each day – is the best option.

Pregnant women need fiber – about 25 to 35 grams each day – to stay regular and reduce the chance of hemorrhoids. Good sources of fiber include whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. Add calcium every day with low-fat dairy products such as 1% milk, yogurt and low-fat cheeses. Keep in mind that intestinal gas and bloating are also common with pregnancy, so you may want to find less gassy foods to reduce discomfort.

Dark, leafy green vegetables are a good choice because they have natural vitamins such as A, B, C, K and folic acid. Salmon is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. And if you must have that chocolate truffle, buy the darkest chocolate with the least amount of sugar for antioxidant benefits.

Overall weight gain depends on your frame and size before pregnancy. Healthcare providers generally recommend a person who is underweight should gain between 28 to 40 pounds; a person at average weight, 25 to 35 pounds; and overweight, only 15 to 25 pounds throughout the pregnancy. Managing the weight gain is especially important to minimize risks of gestational diabetes or cesarean section, for example. Guidelines we use for weight gain are as follows:

  • Underweight: 20 to 40 pounds
  • Normal weight: 25-35 pounds
  • Overweight: 15-25 pounds
  • Obese: 11-20 pounds

Everyone is different, and there is no magic number. The most sound advice is to stay as balanced as possible and talk with your healthcare provider when you have specific questions.

New WakeMed Women’s Hospital Opening May 2015
We’re counting down the weeks until the May 2015 grand opening of Wake County’s fifth full-service hospital, WakeMed North Family Health & Women’s Hospital. WakeMed North Healthplex at 10000 Falls of Neuse Road in Raleigh is currently being transformed into a 248,800-sq. ft., full-service women’s hospital designed with the unique needs of women in mind. It will feature a tranquil environment as well as amenities tailored to our patients’ needs. This includes spacious and comfortable labor and delivery rooms. Learn more.

Ginny Wolf is a registered dietitian with the WakeMed Diabetes Program.