a delicate balance

U.S. Women Struggle With Pregnancy Weight Gain

Weighing for two.
Weighing for two. Photo: JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

A somewhat-depressing new report found that only a third of pregnant women gained the “appropriate” amount of weight while carrying their progeny, while nearly half (47 percent) put on too much and another 21 percent didn’t gain enough. It’s a veritable Goldilocks situation.

For the study, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at data from about 3 million birth certificates where a woman carried a single child to term (that’s at least 37 weeks). They pulled the mothers’ height as well as pre-pregnancy and delivery weight to determine how many pounds they gained as well as their body mass index (BMI).

Women who were overweight or obese before getting pregnant were most likely to gain too much weight — 62 and 56 percent of them did, respectively — even though experts say they should gain the least. The guidelines are specific to the mother’s starting weight. Specifically, women with a BMI in the normal range of 18.5 to 24.9 should gain 25 to 35 pounds, overweight women (BMI of 25 to 29.9) are told to put on 15 to 25 pounds, and obese women (BMI of 30 or above) should only gain 11 to 20 pounds. Underweight women (BMI less than 18.5) should gain the most: 28 to 40 pounds. 

Despite the fact that excessive weight gain can lead to complications for both moms and babies and make it harder to slim down after giving birth, lots of women are still told (or themselves believe) that they’re “eating for two.” Yet the second being referred to in this situation doesn’t require nearly as many calories as you do. As the CDC report noted, most women only need to consume an extra 340 to 450 calories per day during the second and third trimesters. Gaining too little isn’t good either, as it can lead to low birth weight, so moms-to-be are often shamed for “inadequate” or “excessive” weight gain. Ah, the miracle of life!

U.S. Women Struggle With Pregnancy Weight Gain