Monday Medical: Gaining weight in pregnancy, the healthy way |

Monday Medical: Gaining weight in pregnancy, the healthy way

Susan Cunningham/For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Most moms probably don’t look forward to gaining weight in pregnancy, but it’s an important part of a healthy pregnancy.

“A healthy mom is more likely to have a healthy baby,” said Diane E.B. Petersen, OB-GYN with UCHealth Women’s Care Clinics in Steamboat Springs and Craig. “Being underweight or overweight poses risks to the baby and the mom.”

The challenging part can be gaining the right amount. Below, Petersen outlines what to know when it comes to pregnancy and weight.

Consider weight before pregnancy

Maintaining an appropriate weight contributes to a woman’s overall health and a healthy pregnancy.

“Studies have shown that if someone is overweight or obese, losing even a little weight before getting pregnant can actually result in a better outcome,” Petersen said.

Know your number to gain

Recommended weight gain in pregnancy depends on a woman’s pre-pregnancy weight and body mass index, or BMI.

“Moms who are underweight should gain a little more weight, while those who are overweight need to gain a little less,” Petersen said. “And though moms may lose some weight in the beginning with nausea and fatigue, they shouldn’t lose weight over the entire course of the pregnancy.”

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, for women at a normal weight and BMI, recommended weight gain in pregnancy is 25 to 35 pounds. Underweight women should try to gain 28 to 40 pounds, while overweight women should try to limit weight gain to 15 to 25 pounds. Women who are obese only need to gain 11 to 20 pounds.

Monitor weight during pregnancy

Keeping track of weight gain during pregnancy can help women get ahead of any trends in the wrong direction.

“If there’s a rapid rise and someone is gaining too much, often we can change the course,” Petersen said. “Once they see the trend, they can take control and they end up having such pride in paying more attention.”

Understand the risks

There are health risks for both babies and moms when too much or too little weight is gained, including higher risk of stillbirth or needing a cesarean section. For moms with gestational diabetes, the baby’s blood sugar may be higher, putting the baby more at risk for metabolic disorders and obesity.

“It increases risk across the board,” Petersen said.

Nutrition is key

During pregnancy, most women need to eat about 100 extra calories each day.

“While the baby doesn’t need a lot of calories, it does need good nutrition,” Petersen said. “Just as it’s important to put your baby in a car seat when you’re driving, it’s important to pay attention to your nutrition when pregnant.”

Petersen recommends focusing on whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, lean meats, whole grains and healthy fats. Don’t skip breakfast, and do try eating six smaller meals.

Healthy snacks, such as nuts and dried fruit, can ward off nausea, while continuing to exercise and staying hydrated contribute to overall health.

Avoid fad diets

Shakes, frozen meals and diet pills are best to avoid when pregnant.

“You shouldn’t use any of the diet meds that are out there, and fad diets don’t provide proper nutrition for mom or baby,” Petersen said.

Your doctor is your advocate

Conversations about weight can be uncomfortable. But Petersen wants to reassure women that doctors are advocates for their health.

“I tell women, ‘I’m your consultant, your cheerleader, your advocate,’” Petersen said. “I want the best outcome for you and your future or current pregnancy, and we can work together to make sure you and your baby stay as healthy as possible.”

And while keeping tabs on weight during pregnancy is difficult, the effort is what counts.

“As long as you do the best you can to eat nutritiously, that’s applaudable,” Petersen said. “Just know it matters that you try.”

Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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