How to gain weight safely during your pregnancy

While most women are thrilled to find out they're expecting, almost none of them look forward to the weight gain they'll inevitably experience during pregnancy. However, that added baby weight will help support healthy baby development.

Why you need to gain weight during pregnancy
Increasing the amount of food you consume during pregnancy is absolutely essential to ensuring the health of your baby, but don't believe the old myth that you're "eating for two." The truth is that most of the weight you'll gain will be in the form of extra blood and the weight of the actual fetus. That being said, you will need to increase the amount of fats and proteins that you consume by almost double.

Relying on lean proteins and nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables to make up the remainder of your diet will help you gain weight sensibly while providing all the essential vitamins and minerals to foster healthy baby development. Calcium, folate, iron and vitamin B-12 are especially important for women during pregnancy.

How much weight should you gain?
The amount of weight you should gain depends on your body mass index before conception. According to What to Expect When You're Expecting, women within normal BMI range should gain between 25 and 35 pounds over the course of their pregnancy. Women who are overweight should aim to gain less (about 15 to 20 pounds), whereas women who are underweight should aim to gain more (about 40 to 45 pounds).

Where does the weight go?
You may not believe it, but just about every extra ounce you'll carry is meant to serve an important function. By the end of your pregnancy, you should be carrying approximately 30 extra pounds, according to the source. About 7.5 pounds is actually your baby! A further 7 pounds is given to maternal fat stores, which will provide necessary energy to both you and your baby (this is the weight you'll have to lose after the delivery). Four more pounds are spent on additional fluids in your maternal tissue, and an additional 4 pounds are added blood volume pumping through your system. Two pounds are added for uterine enlargement - after all, your uterus has a lot of stretching to do to hold a fully-formed baby! Another 2 pounds are allocated for more maternal breast tissue, as your mammary glands kick in and start producing milk. Two more pounds are attributed to the amniotic fluid and 1.5 are given to the weight of the placenta - totaling 30 average pounds for a single birth.

Ways to keep pregnancy weight gain in check
Medical professionals advise that weight gain should take place in the second and third trimesters. Gaining too much weight in your first trimester, before your baby really needs it, can cause certain complications. For example, gestational diabetes is more likely to occur in women who are overweight before conception and throughout the first trimester.

Throughout your entire pregnancy, it's a good idea to keep an eye on your weight gain and take steps to keep it under control. Exercise is beneficial for pregnant women, not only for its weight-control aspects, but also because it helps to decrease your stress levels and improve your mood. Try incorporating light exercise such as walking, running and yoga into your normal routine.

Do you have any more tips for keeping pregnancy weight gain under control? Share your healthy-weight tips with us in the comments section!