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How many extra calories do you really need?

Before you order the extra helping of dessert, check out these basics on how many extra calories per day are a good idea for your pregnancy.
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The amount of weight you should gain during your pregnancy should be discussed with your OB/GYN, based on your individual health. But, if you're looking for the recommended weight gain during pregnancy, the following guidelines (based on pre-pregnancy weight) are generally accepted:

  • Underweight: 28 to 40 pounds
  • Normal weight: 25 to 35 pounds
  • Overweight: 15 to 25 pounds
  • Obese: 11 to 20 pounds

Gain too much weight, and you increase your risk of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Gain too little weight and your baby may be born too small or too early. "The general rule of thumb: Proper pregnancy weight gain is based on the weight you start off with," advises Baltimore OB/GYN Dr. Saul Weinreb, MD, Senior Medical Advisor of askmyobgyn.com and expert for JustAnswer.com. "A pregnant woman who starts off with less weight should gain more, and someone weighing more should gain less."

For the health of your pea in the pod, the key is to pack in the right kind of calories, in the right quantities, when it will count the most.

First trimester

Dr. Weinreb advises his patients to expect to only gain a few pounds during the first three months. "During the first trimester, you should gain a negligible amount of weight, about 5-10 percent of your total weight gain for the entire pregnancy. Some even lose weight because of vomiting and nausea." Experts recommend an average of an additional 150-200 calories per day during this time when baby's on board.

Second and third trimesters

You can rack up 300 extra calories per day, if you're under or average weight, during the last two-thirds of your pregnancy. "The second trimester is when weight gain really begins, totaling about 30% of overall weight gain," says Dr. Weinreb. "During the third trimester, a total of 50 percent plus of weight gain should occur."

Adding up the numbers

Try not to get caught up in the weight you're adding to your stature. Remember that it's not all fat you are gaining; the extra calories are helping fuel the baby factory you're running inside your belly. Before you climb on the scale, it may help to understand where the extra calories are going:

  • Baby: 7 to 8 pounds
  • Larger breasts: 1 to 3 pounds
  • Larger uterus: 2 pounds
  • Placenta: 1/3 of the weight of your baby, give or take
  • Amniotic fluid and increased blood volume: 10 to 20 pounds depending on the person
  • Fat stores: 6 to 8 pounds

You may be concerned with shedding weight once your bundle of joy makes her grand entrance into the world, but dieting during pregnancy is a no-no.

"You may not be able to do anything about fluid retention, but fat storage can be controlled by healthy eating habits," notes Dr. Weinreb.

Instead, fill your growing belly with healthy choices, adding the recommended extra calories to your day with good-for-you food. And, it's okay to reach for a sweet treat once in a while...you've earned it!

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  • Rated 0 out of 5 by 3reviewers.
    Rated 0 out of 5 by I found this article very helpful and reassuring. I'm due with our first bundle of joy Nov 2011 and as an older first time Mommy I want to control my weight gain. I felt the breakdown of where the weight comes from during pregnancy very informative and comforting. Now I just have to continue to eating well for myself and our Little Bean and try and stay motivated to get my butt off the couch and keep exercising. September 25, 2011
    Rated 0 out of 5 by I gained a whopping 50 pounds last pregnancy and it took me 2 yrs to get back down to my regular weight, I'm hoping with this next one i can control my cravings a little more!! July 7, 2011
    Rated 0 out of 5 Women who hit 200lbs during the prenancy behave as if they are diabetic, whether or not they test as diabetic. This means they are more likely to have large for gestational age babies who at birth may have problems maintaining blood sugars amongst other issues. Dieting during pregnancy is not recommended but getting off of the couch is. Not only will this aide in appropriate weight control, the fitter you are going into labor the better you will do. June 4, 2011
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