We’ve all heard the conventional wisdom: pregnant women get to “eat for two," right?
Well, it looks like we may have to rethink that. In a new report released today, the CDC found that a shocking 47% of women are packing on too many pounds during pregnancy.
But that’s not the only problem: another 21% aren’t gaining enough. That means, added together, more than two out of three American moms-to-be aren’t considered to be at a healthy size.
Why is this so concerning? Carrying too many extra pounds during pregnancy can lead to short- and long-term health problems for both mama and baby, the researchers note — like complications during birth and an increased risk of childhood obesity. On the other hand, gaining too little weight increases the risk that the baby will be born early and underweight.
But clearly, there’s a lot of confusion over just how much should be put on.
So what’s that ideal Goldilocks amount of weight gain?
An expecting mom of normal size should add just 25 to 35 pounds, according to guidelines from the Institute of Medicine. For women who are underweight, they recommend putting on between 28 to 40 pounds. And overweight women should limit weight gain during pregnancy to 15 to 25; for those considered obese, it's just 11 to 20.
The researchers explain that really means most women just need to eat an additional 340 to 450 calories per day. And only during the second and third trimesters — contrary to what we might like to think.
Dr. Aviva Romm, a family doctor specializing in obstetrics, says that the common idea of “eating for two” is a flat-out myth. She recommends most women add just 300 extra calories during the third trimester — the equivalent of just about half a sandwich and a glass of milk.
The bottom line: Doctors need to be more proactive in educating women about healthy weight gain early on in their pregnancy, the report recommends.
And if you’re an expecting mom, it’s important to monitor your weight, exercise at least 150 minutes per week, and work with a health care provider if you’re worried about your size.