Pregnant and Overweight? How to Minimize Your Risks

Up to half of all pregnant women are now overweight or obese. Learn how to reduce the health risks to both mother and baby. 

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
2-minute read

As the number of overweight and obese Americans has risen, so has the number of expectant mothers who are overweight or obese. In fact, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, fully 50% of pregnant women are now overweight or obese - putting both themselves and their babies at risk.

Some women are overweight or obese when they become pregnant. Others start out at a healthy body weight but gain too much weight during their pregnancies. Either way, maternal obesity has a host of negative effects on both the mother and the baby.  For the mom, obesity and/or excessive weight gain during pregnancy dramatically increases your risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, and other serious complications. You’re also more likely to require a Caesarean section. Things don’t go any better for the babies. They are at increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature delivery. They are also much more likely to struggle with childhood obesity.

How to Reduce The Risks of Obesity During Pregnancy

If you are overweight or obese and pregnant, you can reduce the risks for both you and baby by limiting the amount of weight you gain during your pregnancy. Instead of the usual 25-35 pounds, your doctor may suggest that you limit your weight gain to 10-20 pounds instead.

See also: Nutrition Diva’s Guide to Calories and Weight Gain During Pregnancy


But this needs to be done carefully. The last thing you want to do is to deprive your baby of the nutrients he or she needs to grow and develop. If you are restricting your calorie intake in order to limit your weight gain during pregnancy, it is extra important that you make every calorie count by choosing wholesome, nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, legumes, and healthy fats, and eliminating empty calories (like fast food).

See also: How to Overhaul Your Diet


Idea: Get to a Healthy Weight, then get Pregnant

The ideal scenario, of course, is to be at a healthy weight when you get pregnant and to monitor your weight gain carefully throughout your pregnancy…gaining neither too much nor too little. Keep in mind that 50% of pregnancies are unplanned. So, why wait? Even if you’re not trying or planning to get pregnant, here’s one more good reason to get started with your healthy eating plan. 

Recommended Reading: How to Lose Weight Without Dieting

Pregnant tape measure image courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.