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Obesity and Pregnancy
How does your weight affect your pregnancy?
The basics of prenatal care are the same for everyone, regardless of size. You'll get what you need to have a healthy baby.
But your size can make a difference in a few things. You and your doctor will have to watch your pregnancy weight. Your weight may affect your labor and delivery.
You may have some extra doctor visits and tests. And you may have some tests earlier in your pregnancy. You'll need to pay close attention to things like blood pressure and the chance of getting gestational diabetes. (This is a type of diabetes that sometimes happens during pregnancy.) And close attention will be given to your developing baby.
Work with your doctor to get the care you need. Go to all your doctor visits, and follow your doctor's advice about what to do and what to avoid during pregnancy.
How much weight gain is healthy during pregnancy?
If you are very overweight (obese), experts recommend that you gain between 11 and 20 pounds.footnote 1 Your doctor will work with you to set a weight goal that's right for you. In some cases, your doctor may recommend that you not gain any weight.
What problems can happen?
If you are very overweight (obese) during pregnancy, you have greater risks for:
- Pregnancy problems, such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia.
- Cesarean birth and a higher risk of problems from it.
- Miscarriage or stillbirth.
- Having a baby with a birth defect, such as a heart defect or neural tube defects.
- Having a baby that is too large. This can cause problems during labor and delivery.
How much extra food do you need to eat?
Although you may joke that you're "eating for two" during pregnancy, you don't need to eat twice as much food. How much you can eat depends on:
- Your height.
- How much you weigh when you get pregnant.
- How active you are.
- If you're carrying more than one fetus (multiple pregnancy).
In the first trimester, you'll probably need the same amount of calories as you did before you were pregnant. In general, in your second trimester, you need to eat about 340 extra calories a day.footnote 2 In your third trimester, you need to eat about 450 extra calories a day.
What can you do to have a healthy pregnancy?
The best things you can do for you and your baby are to eat healthy foods, get regular exercise, avoid alcohol and smoking, and go to your doctor visits.
- Eat a variety of foods from all the food groups. Make sure to get enough calcium and folic acid.
- You may want to work with a dietitian to help you plan healthy meals to get the right amount of calories for you.
- If you didn't exercise much before you got pregnant, talk to your doctor about how you can slowly get more active. Your doctor may want to set up an exercise program with you.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2021). Obesity in pregnancy. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 230. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 137(6): e128–e144. DOI: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000004395.
- Kaiser LL, Campbell CG (2014). Practice paper: Nutrition and lifestyle for a healthy pregnancy outcome. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(7): 1099-1103. http://www.eatrightpro.org/resource/practice/position-and-practice-papers/practice-papers/practice-paper-nutrition-and-lifestyle-for-a-healthy-pregnancy-outcome. Accessed November 16, 2017.
Current as of: July 10, 2023
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