A lack of weight gain is usually perfectly normal in the first trimester. Tiny fetuses have tiny nutritional needs. The same isn’t true if you’re falling short of your recommended weight gain by the second trimester. As your baby gets bigger, calories and nutrients will be increasingly in demand.
Not Gaining Weight During Pregnancy 20 Weeks
Not gaining enough weight over the course of your pregnancy can put you and your baby at greater risk of complications. Babies whose mothers gain too little weight during pregnancy are more likely to:
Some babies who are born small may have trouble breastfeeding and be at greater risk for illnesses and missing developmental milestones.
A lack of weight gain is usually perfectly normal in the first trimester. Tiny fetuses have tiny nutritional needs.
The same isn’t true if you’re falling short of your recommended weight gain by the second trimester. As your baby gets bigger, calories and nutrients will be increasingly in demand. To keep up, you’ll need to increase your weight at a steady pace.
How to gain more weight during pregnancy
It sounds obvious, but it’s worth repeating. If you’re eating the recommended calories during pregnancy and you’re not gaining weight fast enough, you should eat more.
It’s easier said than done, but try not to stress if you’re not gaining the advised weight. Your doctor or a registered dietitian can help create a meal plan for you.
In the meantime, here are a few tips to help you put on more weight during pregnancy:
Choose nutrient-dense foods
If you’ve lost your appetite, focus on high-quality calories in small packages filled with healthy fats, protein and fiber. Nutrient-rich options include:
- Nuts and nut butter
- Fatty fish (like salmon)
- Olive oil
- Whole grain bread, cereal and pasta
- Brown rice
- Lean meat or poultry
- Plain Greek yogurt
- Dried fruit
Add a caloric punch to your dishes
Try dosing your dishes with an extra tablespoon of calorie-dense olive oil, butter, cream cheese, sour cream or cheese. Or toss a couple of scoops of powdered milk in hot cereal or scrambled eggs.
Some research suggests that adding protein supplements to your meals can help you gain weight. Talk to your doctor to make sure you get the right amount, since overdoing it on protein may limit a baby’s growth.
It’s important to drink plenty of water during pregnancy to stay hydrated. And fruits and vegetables are a staple of a healthy pregnancy diet. They provide your baby with folic acid, a vitamin that helps form healthy cells and reduces the risk of birth defects like spina bifida.
That said, both beverages and calorie-light dishes can put a damper on your appetite. Instead of starting your meal with a salad or big glass of water, save the beverages and greens for after your main course.
Don’t turn to junk foods
While it might be tempting to fill the caloric gap with doughnuts, try to resist the urge. Processed, sugary or greasy foods will add weight but not nutrition. Right now, you and your baby need both.
Eat more often
Try not to skip meals, even if you’re feeling nauseous. Instead of eating three large meals a day, try having six smaller snack-sized bites every two hours or so. Eating smaller, frequent meals also helps combat morning sickness.
Don’t feel like eating? Make yourself a thick smoothie and fortify it with wheat germ.
Compensate for exercise
Have a regular exercise routine? Exercise during pregnancy is excellent for your health and your baby’s in most cases. Just be sure to check in with your practitioner on your fitness program and make sure you’re eating enough to hit your caloric goals.
To make up for a sweat session, eat at a nutrient-dense snack around the time you exercise. It’s especially important if your workout involves high-intensity exercise or lasts longer than 45 minutes.
When to see the doctor
Sometimes, severe and continuous nausea and vomiting can keep you from gaining weight during pregnancy. If you’re among the 1 to 3 percent of women who develop hyperemesis gravidarum, your baby may not be getting the vital nutrients and vitamins he needs to grow. You may also be dehydrated, which can be a problem for both you and your baby.
Be sure to let your doctor know if your morning sickness is severe. Signs of hyperemesis gravidarum include not being able to keep food or liquids down and losing weight. Your practitioner may prescribe lifestyle changes or medication to help you manage the condition.
Finally, if you’ve struggled with an eating disorder in the past, it can be challenging to accept pregnancy weight gain. Speak honestly with your practitioner about past or present disordered eating. He or she may recommend seeing a registered dietitian with expertise in eating disorders for extra guidance. Building a supportive team can make it easier to ask for help when you need it. Remember that gaining weight is essential for your baby’s growth and health.If you’re struggling with pregnancy weight gain by your second trimester, talk to your doctor. Your practitioner or a registered dietitian can offer tools to help you maintain a healthy amount of weight gain.
How To Gain Weight While Pregnant
Most women should gain somewhere between 25 and 35 pounds (11 and 16 kilograms) during pregnancy. If a woman does not gain enough weight, there may be health problems for the mother and baby.
What is the Right Amount of Weight to Gain?
Most women will gain 2 to 4 pounds (1 to 2 kilograms) during the first trimester, and 1 pound (0.5 kilogram) a week for the rest of the pregnancy. Through the entire pregnancy:
- Overweight women need to gain less (15 to 20 pounds or 7 to 9 kilograms or less, depending on their prepregnancy weight).
- Underweight women will need to gain more (28 to 40 pounds or 13 to 18 kilograms).
- You should gain more weight if you are having more than one baby. Women having twins will need to gain 37 to 54 pounds (17 to 24 kilograms).
Some women have a hard time gaining weight during pregnancy. Sometimes, it is because they start a pregnancy underweight, or they have other health issues that keep them from gaining weight. Sometimes, they are not able to keep food down due to nausea and vomiting.
Either way, a balanced, nutrient-rich diet, along with moderate exercise, is the basis for a healthy pregnancy. Ask your health care provider how many calories you should eat each day, and how you can gain the right amount of weight.
If you Need to Gain Weight During Pregnancy
If your provider says you should gain more weight, here are some tips to help:
- Do not skip meals. Instead of eating 3 big meals, eat 5 to 6 small meals every day.
- Keep quick, easy snacks on hand. Nuts, raisins, cheese and crackers, dried fruit, and ice cream or yogurt are good choices.
- Spread peanut butter on toast, crackers, apples, bananas, or celery. One tablespoon (16 grams) of creamy peanut butter will provide about 100 calories and 3.5 grams of protein.
- Add nonfat powdered milk to foods such as mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, and hot cereal.
- Add butter or margarine, cream cheese, gravy, sour cream, and cheese to your meals.
- Try to eat more foods that are high in good fats, such as nuts, fatty fish, avocados, and olive oil.
- Drink juices made from real fruit that are high in vitamin C or beta carotene. Grapefruit juice, orange juice, papaya nectar, apricot nectar, and carrot juice are good choices.
- Avoid junk food.
- Ask your provider about taking prenatal vitamins and other supplements.
- See a dietitian or nutritionist for help with your diet, if your provider recommends it.
Body Image and Pregnancy
If you have struggled with your weight in the past, it may be hard to accept that it is OK to gain weight now. It is normal to feel anxious as the numbers on the scale edge up.
Pregnancy is not a time to diet or worry about weight gain. Keep in mind that weight gain is needed for a healthy pregnancy. The extra weight will come off after you have had your baby. Remember not to gain too much, as this can cause your baby to be too big. A healthy diet and regular exercise will help you have a healthy pregnancy and baby.
If worries about your body image affect your pregnancy or daily life, talk to your provider.