Women's Healthcare Topics

Where does all the Pregnancy Weight Gain Go?

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Weight gain is as much a part of pregnancy as is labor and delivery. Gaining weight steadily throughout pregnancy will help provide your baby the nutrients and comfortable surroundings he or she needs to thrive once they make their appearance on the outside world.

Weight gain during pregnancy helps provide an ideal environment to grow and nurture a new life. Most women will need to gain between 25 and 35 pounds if they are a normal weight prior to pregnancy. If you are overweight before becoming pregnant your doctor may recommend you gain no more than 15-25 pounds during pregnancy. If you are underweight before pregnancy you may need to gain closer to 40 or 45 pounds. Remember a steady weight gain during pregnancy is important for the well being of you and your baby.

Pregnancy Weight Gain Distribution

Learn about how much weight you should gain in pregnancy.

Here is a simple breakdown of where most of the weight goes during pregnancy:

  • Baby - most babies pack on roughly 6-9 pounds (though some will weigh as much as 10 or more!).

  • Placenta - the placenta generally weighs in at 1-2 pounds.

  • Amniotic fluid - the amniotic fluid generally comprises 1-2 pounds of extra weight.

  • Uterus - the uterus grows and expands to roughly 2 pounds.

  • Breast tissue - most women's breasts add 1-2 pounds of weight during pregnancy.

  • Blood volume - a woman's blood volume adds an additional 2 pounds of weight gain during pregnancy.

  • Fluid - Women's bodies generally retain as much as 4-5 pounds of fluid during pregnancy.

  • Maternal fat stores - your body stores roughly 7 pounds of added fat to help nourish your baby and provide you the energy necessary to breastfeed after pregnancy.

Women who are carrying multiples will need to gain even more weight than mothers carrying a single baby. The good news is much of the weight you gain during pregnancy will come off relatively easily in the months following delivery. It isn't uncommon for women to lose 12-20 pounds within the first few weeks after delivery. Once you are cleared at your 6 week exam post delivery, you can engage in an exercise and fitness program that will help speed your weight loss and recovery.

During pregnancy your goal should be gaining a healthy amount of weight. Pregnancy is not the time to diet and lose weight. Doing so can harm you or your baby. Exercise is however beneficial for both mother and baby during pregnancy. Engaging in a regular exercise and fitness program will help you maintain a steady and healthy weight gain and help prepare your body for labor and delivery. You may find you have more stamina and endurance during delivery if you routinely exercise throughout your pregnancy.

There are many forms of exercise that are safe and beneficial for pregnant women. These include walking, yoga, swimming and use of an elliptical trainer. If you did not regularly engage in some form of exercise prior to pregnancy, be sure to consult with your doctor to ensure it is safe for you to exercise during pregnancy. Most women enjoying a low risk pregnancy are fine to exercise throughout their pregnancy.

To maintain a healthy and steady pregnancy weight gain you will also need to add roughly 300 calories to your diet during the second and third trimester. Many of the causes of excess weight gain can be attributed to adding more than the recommended calories. Keep in mind that 300 calories isn't much. One half a bagel with a scoop of peanut butter and glass of milk are enough to do the trick! Remember a healthy weight gain during pregnancy is important for the well being of you and your baby.


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