BookmarkBookmarkTickBookmarkAddCheckBoxFilledCheckBoxCircleBumpCheckedFilledMedical

Here's How Many Calories It Actually Takes to Grow a Baby

Hint: It's a lot more than scientists previously thought.
save article
profile picture of Natalie Gontcharova
By Natalie Gontcharova, Senior Editor
Published May 20, 2024
NEW!
pregnant woman holding belly while sitting on couch at home
Image: NassornSnitwong | Shutterstock

Anyone who’s had a baby knows that it takes a great deal of extra energy. (Just ask your swollen feet and aching back at the end of a long day.) But in a recent study published in Science, scientists say that pregnancy demands even more energy than they previously thought: 50,000 dietary calories over the course of nine months, to be exact.

Dustin Marshall, an evolutionary biologist at Monash University in Australia, told The New York Times that previous estimates were lower because scientists typically assumed that most of the energy involved in reproduction ended up stored in the fetus. But they’ve since discovered that only 4 percent of the total energy costs of pregnancy is stored in baby’s tissues—the other 96 percent is required to run the mom-to-be or pregnant person’s body.

“The baby itself becomes a rounding error,” Marshall said. “It took us a while to wrap our heads around that.”

There’s no word on whether these findings will affect healthcare providers’ recommendations. Currently, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends eating about 340 extra calories a day during the second and third trimesters as part of a healthy pregnancy diet—although, keep in mind that calorie needs are highly individualized. One thing’s for sure: You’ll need a lot of extra fuel.

Sources

Science, Metabolic Loads and the Costs of Metazoan Reproduction, May 2024

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Nutrition During Pregnancy, June 2023

save article
Article removed.
Name added. View Your List
ADVERTISEMENT

Next on Your Reading List

synergy kombucha
Can You Drink Kombucha While Pregnant?
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman holding a bowl of dates
When to Start Eating Dates in Pregnancy
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
Iron Supplements For Pregnant Women-hero
The Best Iron Supplements for Pregnancy, as Chosen by Experts
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
place setting for one with gold accents
6 Holiday Food Rules to Follow When Pregnant
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
woman cutting soft cheese on cheese board
The Ultimate Guide to Soft Cheeses in Pregnancy
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
two women making mocktails in kitchen at home
11 Easy and Fun Mocktail Recipes for Pregnancy and Beyond
By Natalie Gontcharova
pregnant woman eating a snack while using tablet at kitchen table
19 Healthy Pregnancy Snacks to Satisfy All Your Cravings
By Natalie Gontcharova
ADVERTISEMENT
pregnant woman preparing healthy food with toddler in kitchen
How to Eat a Healthy Pregnancy Diet
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
Healthy Alternatives to Water
Healthy Alternatives to Water
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
pregnant woman looking at tablet in her kitchen
So Long Seafood? Debunking Myths About Eating Fish During Pregnancy
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
Best Protein Powder For Pregnancy-hero
How to Choose the Best Protein Powder for Pregnancy
By Emma O'Regan-Reidy
20 slides
20 Healthy (and Tasty!) Pregnancy Snacks
20 Healthy (and Tasty!) Pregnancy Snacks
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
Green vegetables like asparagus and broccoli can prevent pregnant woman's babies from developing asthma.
This Pregnancy Food Cuts Your Child's Asthma Risk in Half, Study Finds
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
ADVERTISEMENT
pregnant woman eating a salad
10 Superfoods to Eat During Pregnancy
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
woman's hands eating healthy quinoa bowl
Easy, Healthy Pregnancy Lunch Ideas for Work and Beyond
Medically Reviewed by Kendra Segura, MD
cranberry holiday themed mocktail
The Top 10 Trending Nonalcoholic Drinks Americans Searched for in 2022
By Wyndi Kappes
pregnant woman holding an apple while standing in kitchen at home
7 Natural Pregnancy Energy Boosters
By Meredith Franco Meyers
ADVERTISEMENT
close up of pregnant woman eating a salad
Baby Can Smell and Taste Mom's Food While in the Womb, Study Says
By Wyndi Kappes
smiling pregnant woman eating apple on couch at home
Don’t Fall for These 5 Pregnancy Nutrition Myths
By Liz Sanders, MPH, RDN
pregnant woman grocery shopping
Study: Choline Can Boost Baby's Brain Health—If You're Getting Enough
By Anisa Arsenault
ADVERTISEMENT
Article removed.