There are common questions that we can answer about all health topics, such as "What is it?" and "How many people are affected." Answers to these questions are found under Condition Information. Each health topic frequently has specific questions that pertain only to that topic. We have answered those in this section.
How much weight should I gain during pregnancy?
The amount of weight you should gain during pregnancy depends on your weight before you got pregnant. Your health care provider will advise you on a healthy weight gain based on your current weight, diet, and activity level. Typically, weight gain should be gradual throughout pregnancy, with a total of about 1 to 4 pounds in the first trimester and 2 to 4 pounds each month in the second and third trimesters.1
In 2009, the Institute of Medicine released new recommendations for total weight gain during pregnancy, based on pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), a measure that combines height and weight. According to these recommendations:
- Women in a healthy weight range before getting pregnant should gain between 25 and 35 pounds.
- Women who are underweight or overweight before becoming pregnant may need to gain more or less.
- For underweight women with a BMI of less than 18.5, total weight gain should be between 28 and 40 pounds.
- Overweight women (BMI between 25 and 29.9) should gain between 15 and 25 pounds.
- Women with a BMI greater than 30 should gain between 11 and 20 pounds.2
It's important to maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy, as being overweight or obese can affect pregnancy outcomes and the long-term health of the mother and infant. An NICHD study found that women who were obese before pregnancy were more likely to have infants born with heart problems.3
What can I do during pregnancy to help make sure my child is a healthy weight?
Research is starting to improve our understanding of the epidemic of obesity in the United States. Unfortunately, even young children are at risk for becoming obese, making them vulnerable to diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions throughout their life course.
The good news is that with better knowledge, actions can be taken to prevent the development of overweight and obesity—starting even before pregnancy. For example, the following steps can help ensure a healthy pregnancy and reduce the chance that a child will be overweight or obese4:
- Women who are planning a pregnancy can take steps to achieve a healthy weight.
- Women who have diabetes (high blood sugar) can modify their lifestyle by achieving a healthy weight, engaging in physical activity, and getting their diabetes under control before they get pregnant.
- By getting regular prenatal care and tracking their weight gain during pregnancy, women can ensure that they gain the proper amount of weight while pregnant.
- Breastfeeding can help reduce the long-term risk that an infant will become obese or develop diabetes, high blood pressure, or high blood cholesterol levels in adulthood.5
- Being at a healthy weight before pregnancy reduces the chances that a woman will develop gestational diabetes (high blood sugar that starts during pregnancy). Children whose mothers had gestational diabetes are at higher lifetime risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes. Gestational diabetes can also cause problems for the newborn, including dangerously low blood sugar, difficulty breathing at birth because of delayed lung maturation, neonatal liver disease, and large body size that may cause injuries at birth.6
- By stopping smoking during pregnancy, women can reduce the chances that their infant will develop obesity during his or her lifetime.7
- Breastfeeding an infant for at least 6 months and making sure that he or she gets enough sleep can also help reduce the chances that he or she maintains a healthy weight for life.8
Is it safe to take medications or supplements during pregnancy?
Medication use during pregnancy is common. In a study by the CDC, during the first trimester of pregnancy, 70% to 80% of women reported taking at least one medication, and as many as 50% took four or more medications.9
Certain medications can be unsafe, however. Talk to your health care provider about the medications you currently take. Tell him or her about prescription and over-the-counter medications as well as dietary or herbal supplements. Certain types of medications for treating acne as well as herbal and dietary supplements can harm the developing fetus. Even ibuprofen or aspirin can cause problems in pregnancy, particularly during the last three months.10
Many women take medications to treat health problems during pregnancy like diabetes, asthma, heartburn, and morning sickness. Other women take medications to treat conditions they had before they became pregnant. Often, your health care provider will encourage you to continue taking your medication. However, in some cases, a safer alternative may be available.9
Read more about medication safety during pregnancy at the FDA Medicine and Pregnancy page.
What unique challenges do pregnant women with disabilities face?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated one in five American women have a disability.11 Most women with disabilities can have healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy babies, especially if they have a health care team that is knowledgeable about their disability. However, in a national study, many women reported difficulty finding health care providers and hospitals that had experience managing pregnancies with their disability.12
Women with disabilities face many of the same health problems, including weight gain and fatigue, as other pregnant women. However, these problems can be more serious or lead to other complications in women with disabilities. Other challenges faced by women with disabilities may include12:
- More problems with bladder function, such as infections and leakage. An increase in infections could lead to pregnancy loss, preterm labor, and a low-birth-weight infant.
- Breathing difficulties and pneumonia, particularly for women who have breathing problems before pregnancy.
- Worsening of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) following delivery. One study shows that this occurs within 1 month of delivery in as many as 30% of pregnant women with MS.5
- Increased seizures in women who experience seizures already as a result of their brain injury.
- Autonomic dysreflexia (a severe, sudden rise in blood pressure). The risk of autonomic dysreflexia is increased for pregnant women with spinal cord injuries.
Preconception care and regular prenatal care from health care providers experienced in managing pregnancies with women with disabilities can improve the health of the mother and the infant. To find a health care provider, visit the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists resources for women with disabilities.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. (n.d.). Daily food plans for moms: Weight gain during pregnancy. Retrieved July 31, 2012, from http://www.choosemyplate.gov/pregnancy-breastfeeding/pregnancy_weight_gain.aspx [top]
- Institute of Medicine. (2009). Weight gain during pregnancy: Reexamining the guidelines. Retrieved July 31, 2012, from http://www.iom.edu/~/media/Files/Report%20Files/2009/Weight-Gain-During-Pregnancy-Reexamining-the-Guidelines/Report%20Brief%20-%20Weight%20Gain%20During%20Pregnancy.pdf (PDF - KB) [top]
- NIH. (2010). Risk of newborn heart defects increases with maternal obesity [news release]. Retrieved July 30, 2012, from http://www.nih.gov/news/health/apr2010/nichd-07.htm [top]
- Wojcicki, J. M., & Heyman, M. B. (2010). Let's Move—childhood obesity prevention from pregnancy and infancy onward. New England Journal of Medicine, 362, 1457–1459. [top]
- Wrotniak, B. H., Shults, J., Butts, S., & Stettler, N. (2008). Gestational weight gain and risk of overweight in the offspring at age 7 y in a multicenter, multiethnic cohort study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87, 1818–1824. [top]
- Institute of Medicine. (1990). Nutritional status and weight gain. In: Nutrition during pregnancy (pp. 27-233). Washington, DC: National Academies Press. p. 27–233. [top]
- Horta. B. L., Bahl, R., Martines, J. C., Victora, C. G. Evidence on the long-term effects of breastfeeding: systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2007. [top]
- Catalano, P. M., McIntyre, H. D., Cruickshank, J. K., McCance, D. R., Dyer, A. R., Metzger, B. E., et al. (2012). The hyperglycemia and adverse pregnancy outcome study: associations of GDM and obesity with pregnancy outcomes. Diabetes Care, 35, 780–786. [top]
- Sullivan, E. L., & Grove, K. L. (2010). Metabolic imprinting in obesity. Forum of Nutrition, 63, 186–194. [top]
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2012). Medicine and pregnancy. Retrieved August 28, 2012, from http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ByAudience/ForWomen/ucm118567.htm [top]
- Thierry, J. M. (2006). The importance of preconception care for women with disabilities. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 10, S175–S176. [top]
- Center for Research on Women with Disabilities. (2012). Sexuality and reproductive health—Pregnancy and delivery. Retrieved July 31, 2012, from www.bcm.edu/crowd/?pmid=1448 [top]