Expert Q&A

Pregnancy & weight gain: How much is normal?

Isn’t it inevitable that women gain weight with pregnancy? How much weight gain is normal?

By the end of a normal pregnancy, the baby is about 7-10 pounds, the placenta is about 1-2 pounds, the extra blood and fluid for the baby is about 5 pounds, and the uterus has increased by a few pounds as the muscles grow. It all adds up to about 20-25 pounds of extra weight for a normal pregnancy. After delivery, the baby, placenta and a lot of fluid account for about 15 or so pounds lost. The uterus shrinks over about 4-6 weeks and some of the extra blood supply is eliminated. If the mother nurses, she will have lost about 20-22 of the 25 pounds she gained with the pregnancy by about 6 weeks after delivery. 

So, why is it that so many women gain and retain their “baby weight?” Probably because they have been told they are “eating for two” when they are pregnant. Really, they are only eating for one until about the last 6 weeks as the baby does not use up many extra calories until then. What really happens is some women use pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever they want, gaining 30, 40 or more pounds with pregnancy. 

A newborn keeps a new mom very busy and she may not take the time to exercise, especially if she did not exercise before the birth. Now that she is used to so many calories every day, she continues to eat as though she were pregnant and fails to lose weight. 

Increased maternal weight poses risks for her and for the baby. If a woman starts her pregnancy overweight, her doctor might even restrict her calories so she gains little or no weight during pregnancy. 

Properly planned, a woman can eat well to provide the best for her baby and be back to her pre-pregnancy weight by the second month after delivery as long as she keeps her weight gain to less than 25 pounds.

For more information on losing weight after pregnancy see the following article from TheDietChannel: Lose That Baby Weight: Weight Control Tips For New Mothers.

John Messmer, MD
Contributing Expert

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