Basic information for topics, such as "What is it?" and "How many people are affected?" is available in the About Pregnancy section. Answers to other Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) specific to pregnancy are in this section.
The amount of weight you should gain during pregnancy depends on your weight before you got pregnant. Your health care provider will advise you on a healthy weight gain based on your current weight, diet, and activity level. Typically, weight gain should be gradual throughout pregnancy, with a total of about 1 to 4 pounds in the first trimester and 2 to 4 pounds each month in the second and third trimesters.1
In 2009, the Institute of Medicine released new recommendations for total weight gain during pregnancy, based on pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) , a measure that combines height and weight. According to these recommendations:
- Women in a healthy weight range before getting pregnant should gain between 25 and 35 pounds.
- Women who are underweight or overweight before becoming pregnant may need to gain more or less.
- For underweight women with a BMI of less than 18.5, total weight gain should be between 28 and 40 pounds.
- Overweight women (BMI between 25 and 29.9) should gain between 15 and 25 pounds.
- Women with a BMI greater than 30 should gain between 11 and 20 pounds.2
More recent guidance from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists largely agrees with these general recommendations, but recognizes that women may vary in how much weight they need to gain to have a healthy infant. Women who are overweight or obese and pregnant should discuss their weight gain needs with their doctor.3
It's important for women to discuss with their health care provider how to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy, as being overweight or obese can affect pregnancy outcomes and the long-term health of the mother and infant. An NICHD study found that women who were obese before pregnancy were more likely to have infants born with congenital malformations such as heart problems and neural tube defects.4
Research is starting to improve our understanding of obesity in the United States and how obesity affects short- and long-term health. Even young children are at risk for becoming obese, making them vulnerable to diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions throughout their lives.
The good news is that with better knowledge, actions can be taken to prevent the development of overweight and obesity—starting even before pregnancy. For example, the following steps can help ensure a healthy pregnancy and reduce the chance that a child will be overweight or obese:5
- Women who are planning a pregnancy can take steps to achieve a healthy weight.
- Women who have diabetes (high blood sugar) can modify their lifestyle by achieving a healthy weight, engaging in physical activity, and getting their diabetes under control before they get pregnant.
- By getting regular prenatal care and tracking their weight gain during pregnancy, women can ensure that they gain the proper amount of weight while pregnant.
- Breastfeeding can help reduce the long-term risk that an infant will become obese or develop diabetes or high blood pressure.6
- Being at a healthy weight before pregnancy reduces the chances that a woman will develop gestational diabetes (high blood sugar that starts during pregnancy). Children whose mothers had gestational diabetes are at higher lifetime risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes can also cause problems for the newborn, including dangerously low blood sugar, difficulty breathing at birth because of delayed lung maturation, neonatal liver disease, and large body size that may cause injuries at birth.7
- By stopping smoking during pregnancy, women can reduce the chances that their infant will develop obesity during his or her lifetime.8
- Breastfeeding an infant for at least 6 months and making sure that he or she gets enough sleep can also help increase the chances that he or she maintains a healthy weight for life.9,10
Medication use during pregnancy is common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 90% of women take at least one medication during pregnancy and 70% take at least one prescription medication. During the last 30 years, use of prescription medications in the first trimester has increased by more than 60%, and use of four or more medications has nearly tripled. Use of four or more medications anytime in pregnancy has more than doubled.11
Certain medications can harm the fetus during pregnancy, however. Talk to your health care provider about the medications you currently take. Tell him or her about prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as dietary, vitamin, and herbal supplements. Certain types of medications for treating acne, as well as herbal and dietary supplements, can harm the developing fetus. Even ibuprofen or aspirin can cause problems in pregnancy, particularly during the last 3 months.12,13
Many women take medications during pregnancy to treat health problems like diabetes, asthma, heartburn, and morning sickness. Other women take medications to treat conditions they had before they became pregnant. In many cases, health care providers will encourage pregnant women to continue taking their medication. However, in some cases, a safer alternative may be available.12
Read more about medication safety during pregnancy at the Food and Drug Administration Medicine and Pregnancy page.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated one in five American women have a disability.14 Most women with disabilities can have healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy babies, especially if they have a health care team that is knowledgeable about their disability. However, in a national study, many women reported difficulty finding health care providers and hospitals that had experience managing pregnancies with their disability.15
Women with disabilities face many of the same health problems, including weight gain and fatigue, as other pregnant women. However, these problems can be more serious or lead to other complications in women with disabilities. Other challenges faced by women with disabilities may include:15
- More problems with bladder function, such as infections and leakage. An increase in infections could lead to pregnancy loss, preterm labor, and a low-birth-weight infant.
- Breathing difficulties and pneumonia, particularly for women who have breathing problems before pregnancy.
- Worsening of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) following delivery. One study shows that this occurs within 1 month of delivery in as many as 30% of pregnant women with MS.14
- Increased seizures in women who experience seizures already as a result of a traumatic brain injury.
- Autonomic dysreflexia (a severe, sudden rise in blood pressure). The risk of autonomic dysreflexia is increased for pregnant women with spinal cord injuries.
Preconception care and prenatal care from health care providers experienced in managing pregnancies with women with disabilities can improve the health of the mother and the infant. To find a health care provider, visit the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists resources for women with disabilities .
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2015). Pregnancy weight gain calculator. Retrieved June 1, 2016, from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/pregnancy-weight-gain-calculator
- Institute of Medicine. (2009). Weight gain during pregnancy: Reexamining the guidelines. Retrieved July 31, 2012, from https://www.nap.edu/resource/12584/Report-Brief---Weight-Gain-During-Pregnancy.pdf (PDF - 47 KB)
- American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists. (2013). Committee Opinion No. 548. Weight gain during pregnancy. Retrieved June 1, 2016, from https://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Obstetric-Practice/Weight-Gain-During-Pregnancy
- NIH. (2010). Risk of newborn heart defects increases with maternal obesity [news release]. Retrieved July 30, 2012, from http://www.nih.gov/news/health/apr2010/nichd-07.htm
- Wojcicki, J. M., & Heyman, M. B. (2010). Let's Move—Childhood obesity prevention from pregnancy and infancy onward. New England Journal of Medicine, 362, 1457–1459. PMID: 20393165
- Horta, B. L. & Victora, C. G. (2013). Long-term effects of breastfeeding: A systematic review. World Health Organization. Retrieved June 1, 2016, from http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/79198/1/9789241505307_eng.pdf (PDF – 1.2 MB)
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2014). What I need to know about gestational diabetes. Retrieved June 1, 2016, from http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Diabetes/gestational-diabetes/Pages/index.aspx
- Behl, M., Rao, D., Aagaard, K., Davidson, T. L., Levin, E. D., Slotkin, T. A., et al. (2013). Evaluation of the association between maternal smoking, childhood obesity, and metabolic disorders: A National Toxicology Program workshop review. Environmental Health Perspectives, 112, 170–180. PMID: 23232494
- O'Sullivan, A., Farver, M., & Smilowitz, J. T. (2015). The influence of early infant-feeding practices on the intestinal microbiome and body composition in infants. Nutrition and Metabolic Insights, 8(Suppl 1), 1–9. PMCID: PMC4686345
- Taveras, E. M., Gillman, M. W., Peña, M.-M., Redline, S., & Rifas-Shiman, S. L. (2014). Chronic sleep curtailment and adiposity. Pediatrics, 133, 1013–1022. PMCID: PMC4035591
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2015). Data and statistics: Use of medication in pregnancy. Retrieved June 3, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/meds/treatingfortwo/data.html
- CDC. (2016). Medications and pregnancy: Effects of medications during pregnancy. Retrieved June 3, 2016, from https://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/meds
- Bloor, M., & Paech, M. (2013). Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs during pregnancy and the initiation of lactation. Anesthesia and Analgesia, 116, 1063–1075. PMID: 23558845
- Thierry, J. M. (2006). The importance of preconception care for women with disabilities. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 10, S175–S176. PMCID: PMC1592145
- Center for Research on Women with Disabilities. (2012). Sexuality and reproductive health—Pregnancy and delivery. Retrieved June 3, 2016, from https://www.bcm.edu/research/centers/research-on-women-with-disabilities/topics/sexuality-and-reproductive-health/pregnancy-delivery