You often hear about “eating for two” when you’re pregnant – but does that mean you have to eat twice as much? That’d certainly be a pain in the pits of morning sickness, when the very thought of something as innocuous as toast can be enough to make retch.
On the other hand, putting on too much weight during pregnancy can also increase the risk of complications. If you’re confused about how much you need to be eating during pregnancy, you’re definitely not alone. Let’s run through the myths and facts about pregnancy nutrition, including how many calories a pregnant woman needs to eat.
What you need to know about pregnancy and calorie counting
Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all number for how many calories you need during pregnancy. It’s better to think in terms of how many calories you need for your own personal activity level, your weight when you started pregnancy, and BMI.
In general, the amount of weight you need to gain depends on your pre-pregnancy weight. Other factors also play a role, such as whether you’re carrying twins or multiples.
Weight gain goals
- BMI <18.5 (underweight): 28 – 40 lb
- BMI 18.5 to 24.9 (healthy weight): 25 – 35 lb
- BMI 25 to 29.9 (overweight): 15 – 25 lb
- BMI 30 and over: 11 – 20 lb
This weight gain works out to half a pound to 1 lb per week second and third trimesters. In order to gain weight, you need to take in more energy than you burn.
How many calories should a pregnant woman eat in first trimester?
For most women who start their pregnancies in a healthy weight range, the daily calorie count comes out around this:
- First trimester (Week 1 – 13): About 1800 calories
Here’s where we can bust that “eating for two means eating twice as much” myth! In the first trimester, you don’t need to eat any more than you usually would. However, if you’re badly affected by morning sickness, it can hard to reach that level. Nausea and food aversions can sometimes mean you don’t reach the 1800-calorie goal post, and some women even lose weight during the first trimester.
Try not to panic, though – at this stage, your baby isn’t going to be taking nutrition from you directly, so even if you do lose a little weight during morning sickness, you don’t need to worry about them going hungry.
How many calories should a pregnant woman eat in second trimester?
For women in a healthy weight range, the daily calorie count for second trimester looks like this:
- Second trimester (Week 14 – 27): About 2200 calories
As you enter the second trimester, you’ll likely find that your appetite picks back up as nausea and fatigue lessen. Good timing, too, as this when the placenta is up and running, giving baby access to the energy and nutrients from the food you eat.
You should be aiming to up your daily calorie intake as you gain weight over the second trimester. However, it matters where these calories come from. Wherever possible, try to get your extra energy from extra healthy food. Following a balanced diet will help make sure you get the nutrients you need to support your baby’s development.
If you do get cravings for unhealthy food once in a while, try not to stress: as long as you’re getting all the nutrients you need for you and your baby’s health and gaining weight at the steady rate of around 1 lb-per-week , it’s okay to indulge once in a while.
How many calories should a pregnant woman eat in third trimester?
For women in a healthy weight range, the daily calorie count for in the last trimester looks like:
- Third trimester (Week 28 – Childbirth): About 2400 calories
In the third trimester, you’ll need to be eating a little bit more for energy as your bump gets bigger and the birth draws near. However, it’s not uncommon to lose your appetite towards the end of pregnancy as the growing uterus squishes up against the stomach. Still, it’s not good to skip meals. Snacking on healthy but energy-rich treats like trail mix with dried fruit, peanut butter or low-fat cheese can help you reach your calorie goals and keep up your energy without feeling too over-full.
Ask your OB-GYN about your pregnancy calorie goals
Remember, these numbers are just a guideline. Every pregnancy is different, so your ideal weight gain – and therefore, your ideal daily calorie count – could differ. Even so, there’s much more to pregnancy nutrition than just calories and weight gain. Your baby also needs a healthy balance of nutrients and vitamins from your diet, so restricting your calorie intake could put them in danger. Talk to your OB-GYN if you want to learn more about your dietary needs – they should be able to recommend healthy weight gain program tailored for your pregnancy.