Health Tips for Pregnant Women

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This publication is one of several resources from WIN that may help you and your family. It gives you tips on how to eat better and be more active while you are pregnant and after your baby is born. Use the ideas and tips in this publication to improve your eating pattern and be more physically active.

These tips can also be useful if you are not pregnant but are thinking about having a baby! By making changes now, you can get used to new eating and activity habits and be a healthy example for your family for a lifetime.

Healthy Weight

Why is gaining a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy important?

Gaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy helps your baby grow to a healthy size. But gaining too much or too little weight may lead to serious health problems for you and your baby.

Too much weight gain raises your chances for diabetes and high blood pressure during pregnancy and after. If you are overweight when you get pregnant, your chances for health problems may be even higher. It also makes it more likely that you will have a hard delivery and need a cesarean section (C-section).

Gaining a healthy amount of weight helps you have an easier pregnancy and delivery. It may also help make it easier for you to get back to your normal weight after delivery. Research shows that a healthy weight gain can also lower the chances that you or your child will have obesity and weight-related problems later in life.

How much weight should I gain during my pregnancy?

How much weight you should gain depends on how much you weighed before pregnancy. See the following box on “Weight Gain during Pregnancy” for more advice.1

Weight Gain during Pregnancy

General weight-gain advice below refers to weight before pregnancy and is for women having only one baby.

If you are You should gain about
underweight (BMI* less than 18.5) 28 to 40 pounds
normal weight (BMI of 18.5 to 24.9) 25 to 35 pounds
overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.9) 15 to 25 pounds
obese (BMI of 30+) 11 to 20 pounds

*The body mass index (BMI) measures your weight in relation to your height. See the Additional Links section for a link to an online BMI calculator.

It is important to gain weight very slowly. The old myth that you are “eating for two” is not true. During the first 3 months, your baby is only the size of a walnut and does not need very many extra calories. The following rate of weight gain is advised:

  • 1 to 4 pounds total in the first 3 months
  • 2 to 4 pounds each month from 4 months until delivery

Talk to your health care provider about how much weight you should gain. Work with him or her to set goals for your weight gain. Take into account your age, weight, and health. Track your weight at home or at your provider visits using charts from the Institute of Medicine. See Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Reexamining the Guidelines  for more Information.

Do not try to lose weight if you are pregnant. Healthy food is needed to help your baby grow. Some women may lose a small amount of weight at the start of pregnancy. Speak to your health care provider if this happens to you.

Healthy Eating

How much should I eat?

Eating healthy foods and the right amount of calories helps you and your baby gain the proper amount of weight.

How much food you need depends on things like your weight before pregnancy, your age, and how fast you gain weight. In the first 3 months of pregnancy, most women do not need extra calories. You also may not need extra calories during the final weeks of pregnancy.

Check with your doctor about this. If you are not gaining the right amount of weight, your doctor may advise you to eat more calories. If you are gaining too much weight, you may need to cut down on calories. Each woman’s needs are different. Your needs depend on if you were underweight, overweight, or obese before you became pregnant, or if you are having more than one baby.

What kinds of foods should I eat?

A healthy eating plan for pregnancy includes nutrient-rich foods. Current U.S. dietary guidelines advise eating these foods each day:

  • fruits and veggies (provide vitamins and fiber)
  • whole grains, like oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and brown rice (provide fiber, B vitamins, and other needed nutrients)
  • fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products or non-dairy soy, almond, rice, or other drinks with added calcium and vitamin D
  • protein from healthy sources, like beans and peas, eggs, lean meats, seafood (8 to 12 ounces per week), and unsalted nuts and seeds

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