• Wed, May 9 2012

Ask An OB/GYN: What’s ‘Normal’ Pregnancy Weight Gain And Post-Pregnancy Weight Loss

Did Jessica Simpson gain too much weight during her pregnancy? Did Victoria’s Secret model, Alessandra Ambrosio not gain enough weight? Did Beyonce lose her post-baby weight too quickly? Plenty of people think they have the answers just by looking at them and judging their appearance pre- and post-baby. But what are the real health concerns and medical guidelines for pregnancy weight gain?

On behalf of women everywhere who may be feeling pressured to have the perfect body while pregnant and fit back into those skinny jeans a few weeks later, we set out to get answers from a qualified professional–instead of snarky media headlines. We consulted with Dr. Myra Wick, a OB/GYN from the Mayo Clinic to get the real scoop on healthy pregnancy weight gain and weight loss. Take a look at what she had to say:

In your opinion, why are people so fascinated by how much weight celebrities like Jessica Simpson gain during pregnancy?

I think it’s just like anything else with celebrities–we’re interested in who they’re dating, what they look like, what they’re wearing…it’s part of the whole celebrity thing and our fascination with them. When looking at their bodies during pregnancy, people just need to be careful because these celebrities are likely to have trainers and people preparing their food for them–things that most people don’t have.

What really is the normal or healthy amount of weight to gain during pregnancy?

It really depends on your BMI, and that is something that people can easily calculate with their weight and height.

  • If you are underweight with a BMI under 18.5, the normal pregnancy weight gain is 28-40 pounds.
  • If your BMI is normal and between 18.5-24.9, the normal weight gain is 25-35 pounds.
  • For women who are overweight with a BMI of 25-29.9, their weight gain would be less with 15-25 pounds being healthy.
  • For obese women with a BMI over 30, their recommended weight gain is 11-15 pounds.

And for those who are morbidly obese with a BMI over 40, the guidelines state they should only gain six to 11 pounds, if anything at all; if they don’t gain any weight during pregnancy, there aren’t any ill effects with the baby. These guidelines were originally developed more for underweight women to protect the baby.

So if a woman is out of her recommended range, does that mean she is going to make herself or her baby unhealthy?

Not necessarily. As long as she’s eating a healthy diet, she’s probably not going to do anything to make herself or her baby unhealthy. The thing we worry about is excessive weight gain which can cause gestational diabetes or a larger baby which could result in a c-section or trauma to the bottom during delivery.

At what point is a woman putting her baby in danger because of weight gain?

There’s not really a specific point. There have been some studies that have shown that childhood obesity may be linked to maternal obesity and larger babies though. And we know that childhood obesity can lead to cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Some of that could be lifestyle too, and not just the amount of weight the mother gained while pregnant. There was at least one recent study that also linked excessive weight gain during pregnancy to autism, but we need additional studies to verify that data. The best solution is to have women start their pregnancy at a healthy weight. Obesity can be linked to infertility or miscarriages, so we like to recommend that women who are overweight lose the weight first.

What about the stress of all this pressure to weigh the right amount –should there even be weight guidelines during pregnancy, or should women just listen to their bodies and do what feels right for them?

I think it’s a good idea to try to follow the guidelines if you can. Women can get support from dieticians who can help with portion size and healthy diets. We also encourage exercise during pregnancy to stay healthy and avoid gaining too much weight that is outside of these guidelines.

What about losing that weight after giving birth? What is the correct and “normal” time frame here?

I would caution women that celebrities have personal trainers, personal chefs and people who can babysit while they’re working out three hours a day, so they aren’t always realistic role models. But in general, about half of the baby weight is lost by six weeks, while the rest is lost at 6-12 months. Some of that depends on how much weight was gained though. For example, if a woman gained 50 pounds, she’s going to have a harder time. It’s just like any other weight you gain–it’s easier to put it on than take it off. That weight gain is not just from the baby, but it’s in our breasts, uterus, placenta, amniotic fluid, increased blood and fluid volume, and fat stores.

Is it unhealthy that so many celebrities and models tend to lose their post-baby weight so fast?

Generally, probably not. There are some studies that have shown that even if a woman is breast feeding, the energy intake would have to be extremely reduced to affect milk production. But if trying to lose the weight too quickly is making the mom stressed, anxious or lacking energy, that’s a bad idea all around. Also, depending on your skin, losing weight too quickly can affect your skin tone with sagging and flabbing if the connective tissue is looser. Also, if women lose too much weight or body fat and become too thin, they could have trouble getting pregnant in the future.

Ultimately, what do you want women to know about pregnancy weight gain and weight loss?

Try to follow the guidelines of weight gain based on your BMI. That’s the most important thing. And eat a healthy balanced diet. If there are questions, sit down with a dietician and figure it out. If you have a healthy weight gain, it’s going to be easier to lose the weight. Don’t pressure yourself to think you have to be at your pre-pregnancy weight at your 6 week post-baby visit. And remember, when you pick up Glamour magazine and see women who are flawless, those photos are just setting unrealistic expectations.

Photo: healthland.time.com

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  • Megan

    Although I appreciate the Doctors advice and opinions, I don’t really agree with the BMI suggestion. People with MORE lean body mass less fat could have the same BMI as someone with more fat and less lean body mass. The BMI is a joke in my opinion.

  • beth

    “The thing we worry about is excessive weight gain which can cause gestational diabetes or a larger baby which could result in a c-section or trauma to the bottom during delivery.”

    “trauma to the bottom”? seriously? on the same site that is showing an MRI video of birth? “bottom” is not exactly a medical term. how about when reporting on health and science we use the proper terminology. do you mean vaginal tearing? hemorrhoids? fistulas?

  • aheartmedicine