A pregnant woman must eat and drink more than normal to ensure the proper growth and development of her baby. The amount of weight to gain during pregnancy depends on body weight before pregnancy.
Most women in the normal weight range will need to gain between 25 pounds and 35 pounds during pregnancy. These mothers can expect to gain 3 pound to 5 pounds during the first trimester and 1 pound to 2 pounds per week during the second and third trimesters. If weight is gained more rapidly than this, the woman should cut back empty calories from desserts, sugary drinks and salty snacks.
An overweight woman entering pregnancy should gain less, usually 15 pounds. An underweight woman would need to gain more, up to 40 pounds. Too much or too little weight gain can be harmful to mother and baby. A doctor will know the appropriate weight gain for an individual pregnancy.
Women shouldn’t look to just gain weight. Pregnant women need to make calories count. Eating a balanced diet is important throughout life. It’s even more important for a woman who wants to have a baby. She should eat a variety of foods and take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid before and during pregnancy to ensure all necessary vitamins and minerals – especially iron and folate – are being consumed.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends pregnant women consume 6 ounces of bread, cereal or other grains each day, along with 2.5 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, 5 ounces of meat and beans and 3 cups of milk or yogurt.
This should come in at least three to six small meals per day. Eating often in the first trimester will help to control nausea. Small, frequent meals in the last trimester work well, too. As the baby gets bigger, the woman will have less room for large meals and more problems with heartburn.
(Connie Crawley is a nutrition and health specialist with University of Georgia Extension.)