Skip to Content
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Obesity and Pregnancy
Most pregnant women have healthy babies—and that includes women who are obese. But being very heavy does increase the chance of problems.
Babies born to mothers who are obese have a higher risk of:
Mothers who are obese have a higher risk of:
If you're not pregnant already, being obese can make it hard to get pregnant.
These are scary problems, and it's common to worry about your and your baby's health. But being obese doesn't mean that you will have these problems. You can do a lot to improve your chances of having a healthy pregnancy.
Work with your doctor to get the care you need. Go to all your doctor visits, and follow your doctor's advice about what to do and what to avoid during pregnancy.
No. Pregnancy is not the time to lose weight. Your baby needs you to eat a well-rounded diet. Don't cut out food groups or go on any type of weight-loss diet.
Experts recommend that obese women gain between 11 and 20 pounds.footnote 1 Your doctor will work with you to set a weight goal that's right for you. In some cases, a doctor may recommend that a woman not gain any weight.
Although pregnant women often joke that they're "eating for two," you don't need to eat twice as much food. In general, pregnant women need to eat about 300 extra calories a day. You can get this in a sandwich or in an apple and a cup of yogurt.
How much you can eat depends on:
Like any pregnant woman, you need to eat a variety of foods from all the food groups. You especially need to make sure to get enough calcium and folic acid.
You may want to work with a dietitian to help you plan healthy meals to get the right amount of calories for you.
You will have the same number of doctor visits as a woman of average weight, unless you start to have problems. Then you would see your doctor more often. But you'll have the same type of tests to look for problems and make sure your baby is healthy.
The best things you can do to have a healthy pregnancy are to eat a variety of foods, get regular exercise, avoid alcohol and smoking, and go to your doctor visits. If you didn't exercise much before you got pregnant, talk to your doctor about how you can slowly get more active.
For more information on healthy habits, see the topic Quick Tips: Healthy Pregnancy Habits.
For more information on eating well when you're pregnant, see:
If you're not yet pregnant, now is a good time to try to lose some weight. Losing even 5 or 10 pounds may help reduce your risk for problems.
You also can make other lifestyle changes to get a future pregnancy off to a good start. These include getting enough folic acid, avoiding alcohol and smoking, and avoiding or limiting caffeine. See your doctor for a checkup before you become pregnant.
For more information on getting ready for pregnancy, see the topic Preparing for a Healthy Pregnancy.
Some women may want to have weight-loss surgery. If you're thinking about it, talk with your doctor to learn how it might affect a future pregnancy. For more information, see the topic Pregnancy After Bariatric Surgery.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (2009). Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Reexamining the Guidelines. Washington, DC: National Academies Press. Also available online: http://iom.edu/Reports/2009/Weight-Gain-During-Pregnancy-Reexamining-the-Guidelines.aspx.
Other Works Consulted
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2013). Weight gain during pregnancy. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 548. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 121(1): 210–212.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerKirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as ofMay 22, 2015
Current as of:
May 22, 2015
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
I Want To...
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.