Healthy Weight Gain During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, it is important to eat a healthy and balanced diet so as to ensure that you gain a healthy amount of weight during your pregnancy. Not only that, a balanced diet is crucial so that your body can provide your growing baby with the nutrients he needs for healthy growth.

How much weight gain is enough?

Pregnant women will gain weight progressively throughout the 40 weeks, and achieving the right weight is important to avoid an oversized or underweight baby. On average, women of normal weight will need to gain between 11 to 16 kg during pregnancy. However, your pre-pregnancy weight and body mass index (BMI) should determine and guide you on the appropriate amount of weight gain you should work toward. Therefore, based on your pre-pregnancy BMI, refer to the table below on the total weight gain you should have put on by full term:

Pre-pregnancy BMITotal weight gain by full term

Underweight: < 18.5 kg/m2 12.5 – 18 kg
Normal: 18.5 – 24.9 kg/m2 11.5 – 16 kg
Overweight: 25 – 29.9 kg/m2 7 – 11.5 kg
Obese: ≥ 30 kg/m2 5 – 9 kg

If you are underweight….

It is crucial that you gain a reasonable amount of weight during your pregnancy in order to avoid problems such as premature delivery or lowbirth weight in your baby.

If you are overweight/obese….

You may face increased risks of pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Work closely with your doctor to ensure that you have a healthy pregnancy.

Another simple guide that can be used as a way to monitor your weight gain is by aiming for a 1-2 kg increase in the first trimester, with a subsequent weight gain of about half a kilogram a week until delivery. In the case of twins, your weight gain during pregnancy should be between 16 to 24 kg, with an average of 0.7 kg per week after the usual 1-2kg weight gain of the first trimester.

Gaining more than the recommended amount of weight for pregnancy is fine, but if you are unable to shed the extra weight after delivery, you may increase your risks for developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) later in life. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy is also a factor in increasing your baby’s health risk at birth and if not controlled, may lead to childhood obesity.

What if you are expecting more than one baby?

It is critical that you gain a healthy amount of weight because it will affect the weight of your babies. In the case of multiples, early birth is often the norm, thus a higher birth weight is important for their health. Consult your doctor to find out what is the correct weight gain for you and your babies.

Eat Well & Be Active for Healthy Weight Gain

While the fact remains that your body requires extra calories, “eating for two” is an oft-misused phrase. On average, a pregnant woman does not need any additional calories during her first trimester, but only needs an additional 360 kcal per day during her second trimester and 470 kcal per day during her third trimester. To meet the increased calorie needs, it is therefore recommended to eat several small meals throughout the day, i.e. five to six small meals, instead of just three main meals.

In addition to that, it is important to note that the foods that you choose are “nutrient-dense” so as to not only meet the increased energy needs but also certain nutrients such as protein, folate, calcium, iron, and B vitamins (refer to feature article on page 10-11).

Finding out where you stand

How do you know if you are overweight, obese, underweight, or normal? You can use your body mass index (BMI) to determine this. It is calculated by taking your pre-pregnancy weight and dividing it by your height squared (BMI=weight (kg)/height (m) x height (m)). While BMI does not directly measure body fat, it is a fairly true indicator of body size. It is also a quick and easy method of screening to determine your weight category.

Watch out for those empty calories and ensure you gain weight healthily while meeting your increased needs during your pregnancy. Here are some healthy eating tips:

  • Limit your intake of high-calorie foods such as deep-fried foods, fast foods, processed meats, sweet desserts, such as cakes, cookies and snack foods (e.g. commercially prepared potato crisps, local keropok/kerepek).
  • Watch out for the way foods are being prepared. Opt for healthier alternatives such as food that has been steamed, baked, grilled, braised, or poached instead.
  • When cooking meals at home, use moderate amounts of high fat ingredients, such as cooking oils, margarine, butter, mayonnaise, santan, and lard. Santan for example, can be substituted with low fat milk or yoghurt.
  • When it comes to drinks, choose plain water. You should limit sugary drinks as it only provides sugar, giving extra empty calories (e.g. soft drinks, cordials).

Above all, you should embrace the principles of balance, moderation, and variety (BMV) all the time when it comes to choosing your foods.

Lastly, continue to keep your body active by exercising regularly. It helps in controlling your healthy weight gain, reduce the risk of diabetes and hypertension as well as speed up the post-natal recovery to get back to your normal weight. In addition, exercise promotes good posture and prepares your body for an easy delivery by strengthening and stretching your muscles. With the improved fitness and stamina level, regular exercise also prepares you for the rigours of labour.


Simple exercises such as walking or swimming are generally safe for pregnant women, but don’t hesitate to consult your doctor for advice on exercises.

An educational collaboration with Nutrition Society of Malaysia.

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