Where do pregnant mothers gain weight on the body during pregnancy?

Pregnancy pounds are NOT all down to baby! Expectant mothers carry extra breast tissue, fat stores and blood, expert explains – and the foetus accounts for just a third of the weight

  • Pregnant mothers can expect to gain between 25-35 lbs during a pregnancy
  • A newborn baby weighs between 6-9 lbs, so where does excess weight go?
  • Just 7 lbs goes to fat stores, with other pounds for breast tissue and blood supply

The weight of the baby only accounts for a portion of the total amount of weight a woman gains during pregnancy, an expert has explained. 

While the amount of weight a woman may gain in pregnancy can vary, according to NICE guidelines women who are a normal weight for their height should gain between 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy.

However, of this, a baby will only account for roughly a third, with the rest of the weight attributed to extra blood and fluid volumes, fat stores and placenta. 

Normal weight gain: Pregnant mothers can expect to gain between 25-35 lbs during a pregnancy, with an average newborn baby weighing in between 6-9lbs

Speaking to FEMAIL, Dr Kathryn Dalrymple, a Nutritional Epidemiologist and post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Women and Children’s Health at King’s College London, said: ‘In the UK we don’t have any formal guidelines on weight gain during pregnancy, however the USA Institute of Medicine guidelines are commonly used in the UK and these vary depending on an individual’s pre-pregnancy BMI category.

‘These guidelines suggest that if you have a healthy BMI (18.5kg/m2 – 24.9kg/m2) your recommended weight gain throughout pregnancy should be between 25 and 35lbs. 

‘In the first trimester (up to 12 weeks gestation) you can expect to gain around 2-4lbs in total.

‘During the 2nd and 3rd trimester, you will gain around 1lb/week, this weight gain is from the increase in expanding breast tissue, fetus weight, placenta, maternal blood volume expansion, maternal fat deposits and amniotic fluid. 

Health is key: Women should remain active throughout their pregnancy. Stock image

‘The baby only contributes between 6-9lbs to gestational weight. The increase in blood and fluid volumes contributes around 8-10lbs, the placenta normally weighs 1.5lbs, the mothers fat stores are about 7lbs and the breast tissue, uterus and amniotic fluid are all 2lbs each. 

‘If your BMI is less than 18.5kg/m2 then your weight gain during pregnancy will be a little higher (27.5-39lbs). 

‘If you are overweight or have obesity then your recommended weight gain is a little lower; 15-25lbs and 11-19.8 lbs, respectively.’

Scientific research has repeatedly disproved the ‘eating for two’ theory. Official guidelines state women only need an extra 200 calories a day in the last trimester (three months) of pregnancy.

Dr Dalrymple explained: ‘To optimise weight gain, pregnant women are advised to remain active throughout their pregnancy and aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense activity 5 times per week.

‘It is also recommended that women should have a balanced diet throughout pregnancy, based on wholegrains, fruits and vegetables, dairy products and foods high in iron (meats, fish, eggs, beans and pulses). 

‘They also don’t need to increase their calorie intake during pregnancy (unless advised otherwise by their midwife, GP or obstetrician), except for an extra 200kcal during the 3rd trimester. 

‘During a day, 200kcal could be 1 extra Weetabix biscuit at breakfast, and extra piece of fruit as a snack and an extra spoonful of rice or pasta at dinner.’  

She explained the risks that come with pregnant women either putting on too much weight or too little weight, saying: ‘Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can lead to adverse outcomes during pregnancy, delivery and it is associated with postpartum weight retention and an increased risk of childhood obesity. 

‘Whereas gaining too little weight has been associated with small for gestational age infants.’  

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