Congratulations! Pregnancy does change your life, and as you prepare for the birth of your baby in the coming months, nutrition will become especially important. What you eat can effect your health, the birth, and your baby’s health. Although you can’t change how much you weighed at the beginning of this pregnancy, you can make smart decisions during the rest of your pregnancy. The goal is to eat well so your baby receives good nutrition and is born healthy at term.
Here’s some pregnancy information related to the size of your baby, and a rare, but potentially severe, birth complication called shoulder dystocia. We hope this web site helps you to start a conversation with your doctor if you have questions or concerns about these important topics.
The Institute of Medicine has published recommended amounts of weight to gain during pregnancy. Learn more.
Naturally, as your weight increases during your pregnancy, so will your body mass index (BMI), a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women.
You can calculate your BMI by using the BMI Calculator on this page. You can then refer to the Recommended Weight Gain Chart on this page and compare yourself using your weight before this pregnancy. There are no hard and fast rules, so these should be considered as general guidelines.
Please note that these recommendations do not apply to women with more than one baby, such as twins or greater.
We can be certain of the baby’s weight only after birth.
Before birth, clinicians can make an educated guess by considering how much your previous babies weighed, how much weight you have gained and the size of your uterus from clinical examination. We can also measure the baby by ultrasound. Ultrasound based estimates of the baby’s weight can be off by 15% or more but most of the time it will be closer.
Information about your height and weight, in addition to an estimate of the baby’s weight, help your doctor assess your risk of having shoulder dystocia.
If you know your gestational age in weeks and days, you can look up the average weight of boy and girl babies on the Baby Weight Chart on this page. If you’re not sure, use the EDD Calculator on this page to find the estimated delivery date and gestational age. (You are considered to be at 40 weeks and 0 days on your due date.) There are many references which give these numbers and they can vary.
- Shoulder dystocia occurs after delivery of a baby’s head, when the baby’s shoulder gets stuck under the mother’s pubic bone. This prevents the rest of the baby from emerging easily from the birth canal. Shoulder dystocia occurs in approximately 1 in every 100 vaginal births.
- The natural forces of labor and delivery, and the delivery techniques necessary to resolve shoulder dystocia, are sometimes associated with injury to the nerves in the baby’s neck and shoulder that extend to the arm and hand. This is called brachial plexus injury. This condition occurs in approximately 1 in 1,000 vaginal births overall.
- If you have a shoulder dystocia at delivery, there are other risks to your infant. The baby’s arm or collarbone may be fractured. These injuries will almost always heal completely. If recovery is not complete, a child with brachial plexus injuries may not have full use of her shoulder, arm or hand. Fortunately, about 85%-90% of brachial plexus injuries heal completely.
- A more severe complication—occurring when your baby does not get enough oxygen during the resolution of the shoulder dystocia--is extremely rare.
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Is that enough time to learn about the role weight gain plays in delivering a healthy baby? We can help.
- In the last month of pregnancy, the presence of any of the risk factors on the Prescreen Checklist below indicates that you may be at greater risk for having a large baby or shoulder dystocia. Check the box that applies to you. (Only complete this Prescreen Checklist if you are in your last month of pregnancy.)
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