Adequate pregnancy weight gain is essential for a healthy baby. But recent research from the National Institute of Health says that moms-to-be might be gaining too much:
Women who gave birth between 1959 and 1966 had an average pre-pregnancy BMI of 23, while 21st-century moms tipped the scales at almost 25. The latter number is significant because a body mass index of 25 is considered to be overweight.
And guess what? The more overweight you are, the longer you’ll labor, especially first-time moms. One study in Obstetrics & Gynecology found that obese first-time moms took almost two hours longer to dilate from 4 to 10 centimeters than normal-weight first-timers. “Labor is an intense physical activity,” says Amy Thompson, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Cincinnati. “Women who are fit have shorter labors and recover more quickly.”
There’s more: Excess pregnancy weight gain is associated not only with longer labor times, but also a higher risk for C-sections, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, macrosomic (meaning really big) babies and long-term health problems. Another potential problem? Pregnancy snoring, which could result in high blood pressure.
So, how much pregnancy weight gain is normal—and what’s the best way to put on the pounds?
Guidelines for healthy pregnancy weight gain
Gain 2 to 4 pounds total during your first trimester, and 3 to 4 pounds per month after that. For women at a normal weight (BMI of 18.5 to 24.9), the guidelines recommend a total gain of 25 to 35 pounds. Overweight women (BMI of 25 to 29.9) should gain less—15 to 25 pounds. Obese women (BMI greater than 30) need to limit their gain to 11 to 20 pounds. Calculate your BMI at nhlbisupport.com/bmi.
Walk for 45 minutes daily. Unless you have a high-risk pregnancy, most women can do this. “Regular, low-impact exercise during pregnancy will give you more energy and stamina during labor,” says Thompson.
Eat no more than 300 extra calories a day during the last six months of pregnancy.
You really don’t need too many extra calories now, which means you’ve got to make these 300 calories count. Your baby needs nutritious foods to develop properly, not chips and desserts.
By Nancy Gottesman