How much weight to gain during pregnancy

This is one of those things where doctors tell you that you have to gain weight then are all “Whoa, easy there Horton” if you gain too much.

There seems to be two camps of women where this one is an issue: ones that are scared to gain any weight because they are so accustomed to keeping it off and women who use pregnancy as an excuse to unhinge their jaw and eat 20 buckets of chicken in a sitting (wafer thin mint, sir?).

So since the 1970s, the powers-that-be have advised women in North America to gain 25 – 35 pounds during their pregnancies. Women who are over-weight are advised to gain 5-10 lbs less and women who are under-weight are advised to gain 5-10 lbs more. Here is an approximate breakdown of where it’s all going if you’re carrying a single baby:

Baby – 8 pounds

Placenta – 2-3 pounds

Amniotic fluid – 2-3 pounds

Boobs – 2-3 pounds

Blood – 3-4 pounds

Fat & water – 5-9 pounds (or, if you’re like me, 60 pounds)

Uterus increase – 2-5 pounds

Total: 25 to 35 pounds

As for the risks associated with tipping the scales either way:

If you gain too much weight:

The only clear cut thing I could find on this one is that you are more likely to have a big baby, which can cause labour complications and puts you at a higher risk for having a cesarean delivery. There is also some talk of your giant baby becoming obese as an adult but the studies I read were a little wishy washy on whether it was because of pregnancy weight gain or just because obese people tend to feed their kids obese foods.

Other issues stem from going into your pregnancy over weight – this includes not taking off the weight from your previous pregnancies. It seems that if you start pregnancy overweight you are at higher risk for complications including gestational diabetes and preeclampsia and it increases the risk of breast cancer and type 2 diabetes later in life. But as far as I’m concerned that’s a whole lot of fat chat that we already know about that has less to do with pregnancy and more to do with the risks associated with being over weight so they aren’t shaking the donut free from my hand yet.

If you don’t gain enough weight:

You at higher risk of delivering a preterm infant or a low-birth-weight baby (under 5.5 pounds). But lets say you’re a relentless barfing machine from morning sickness – and we’re not just talking about once here and there – but constant vomiting which is clinically called hyperemesis gravidarum. No long-term follow-up studies have been conducted on children of hyperemetic women but they don’t appear to have any greater risk of complications or birth defects than other children. That said, it’s treated fairly aggressively because it’s damn unpleasant and because of the risks listed above.

On an interesting note, in England, women are weighed only at the beginning and end of the pregnancy, with medical experts citing the lack of evidence that monitoring weight promotes healthier births. Yet another reason I would move to Europe if I was going to give birth again – acceptable wine drinking on occasion being the first reason.

[Note: I have had many women in England tell me they were weighed during their pregnancies and many that tell me that they weren’t. I am holding off on an update until I hear from Kate Middleton.]

As for myself, I gained 65lbs in both of my pregnancies. The first time around I was meticulous about making sure I was eating all the right things then added some ice cream and a ton of french fries on top of it because I was HUNGRY. Not just peckish, but knock-over-the-kid-with-the-cookie-a-steal-it hungry. The second time around, I felt like shit so I ate Mr. Noodle and whatever my toddler dropped on the floor. Yet I still gained the same amount of weight.

There are a few people that think you are a little pre-disposed to gaining a certain amount of weight regardless of what you eat or don’t eat. I like these people. They can move to Europe with me.

search: pregnancy weight gain, weight gain in pregnancy, pregnancy weight gain guidelines, weight gain during pregnancy

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23 Comments

  • I realize this is a super old post, but I really appreciate it and wanted to add my story for others who will read it and want confirmation that their weight gain is normal. I started my first pregnancy at 115 pounds (up about 5 pounds from normal; I was drinking whole milk to help me ovulate, and because it’s delicious) and gained 48 pounds before I delivered. I ate a balanced diet, a mix of fruits and veggies, protein, dairy, carbs, sweets, etc., but larger portions and more snacks (mostly healthy! and not HUGE portions!) because I was STARVING (especially during the first trimester; I never had morning sickness). I also worked out at least 3 times a week, doing the elliptical, swimming, and yoga. I gained 9 of those pounds in 9 days and my midwife implied I maybe had too much pie at Thanksgiving (yeah, like I ATE my way to 9 pounds in 9 days). They thought I maybe had preeclampsia at the end because I was so swollen, had gained so much weight, and had high blood pressure, but my labs came back normal. But my daughter was just over 7 pounds and, with the help of breastfeeding and moderate exercise and lots of muffins, I lost all the weight in about 6-9 months and was 10 pounds under my pre-pregnancy weight after a year. SO BOOYAH. My sister also gained about 50 pounds while pregnant. I am 100% in the “you are just going to gain a certain amount of weight” camp (though obviously you also shouldn’t LITERALLY eat for 2 fully grown human beings). I’m in my second trimester with my second baby now and would love to gain a bit less weight only so I won’t be as swollen and uncomfortable at the end, but I’m also not sweating it this time because I know now that it is going to be fine.

  • I’m not sure exactly how much I gained, because I’m in England and they only weighed me at the start, and not at the end. Another reason to love the NHS! I had a 9lb 1 oz baby, and lost about 14 lbs right away. Unfortunately, I gained it back around 3 months post-partum–too much time spent trapped under a sleeping/nursing baby and too much snacking "to keep my milk supply up"…FYI, lactation cookies are still cookies.

  • I started my pregnancy at 115 lbs, and gained 13. My midwife (and concerned strangers) was expecting a small baby. She was born at 39 wks, 7 lbs, 12oz, so not tiny. I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight at about 4 days pp..never sick throughout and ate well. A friend who gave birth one day earlier gained 40 lbs and her baby was 6 lbs, so there doesn’t seem to be any correlation. My sister gained 30 lbs for both her pregnancies, and babies were 6lbs, and then 9 lbs… so there ya go!

  • You are the best. I am starting week 4 of my first pregnancy. I’m super SUPER excited but appalled by all the fear mongering I’m finding online!! I’m an RN so I know how to read scientific literature and distinguish between what’s important to consider and whats negligible but Lord…..shame on these websites like babycenter and thebump for spewing information to the masses without putting it into the proper frame of reference. Makes my blood boil, maybe you should do an article about the stress induced detrimental effects those websites have on a fetus 🙁

    • I was going to say that exactly! I read the comments up until this point to see if anyone else had already mentioned it. 🙂

  • Be a bit picky about where in europe.. I moved to Norway at ~24 weeks pregnant (from the UK where I had been told a lb per week of prenancy was about right) and here you are weighed at every midwife’s visit, and I found out at a week overdue that gaining more than 20kg (~44lb) meant an automatic induction at 1 week late. I gained 21kg (~46kg) so I was told quite bluntly that I should have been in for induction that day without a checkup because of excessive weight gain. When they looked his fluids were low too so I did have the induction for safety’s sake but feeling like it was my own fault for being a whale wasn’t helpful 🙁 (my son was 4.325kg / 9lb 8 oz so with placenta etc, 10 of those kg were off in a week! still working on the other 10 :0/)

  • I am actually an American living in England expecting my first. I have got to say the whole not weighing you thing is pretty great! I am 32 weeks now and gained maybe 2 lbs, which honestly I could not tell you how I have managed that. I eat pretty much whatever I want and haven’t been sick or anything. I get the whole "you aren’t gaining enough" thing from well meaning family members who really just ended up making me terrified for the baby. But my baby is growing and gaining weight just fine so I think I am in the "you are going to gain what you are going to gain no matter what you do" camp.

  • Hate to burst your bubble, but I moved to Europe (London) and I still get weighed at every appointment. I haven’t been given a hard time about it though… 29 weeks and 29 pounds, no matter what action I take or don’t take, it just comes on! My Mother gained 70 with me (and lost it) so I’m not too worried though. Thank you Pregnant Chicken for your constant comfort! I feel better! Move to Europe anyway 🙂

  • My mother-in-law bought me "Eat Well and Lose Weight While Breastfeeding" for Christmas. I’m almost 35 weeks pregnant. Think she’s trying to tell me something? (Insert eye roll here)

  • I gained 50 pounds twice. The first time, I was 28 years old and a vegetarian. I was told that I would have a big baby as well. Nopey, nope, nope, she was a mere 6 lbs and 19 inches. The second time was 1o years later and a meat eater…baby was 7. 5 lbs and 19.5 inches.

    I also want to share a story about a very young friend of mine. She was 23 when she got pregnant and ran track for the university up to six months! And, she still gained 40 pounds. I think it’s full of shit that doctors think that we can control our weight while pregnant!!! That’s not to say that I believe you can eat whatever you want~ I do think eating healthy is essential~ but regardless of how healthy we eat and how often (or hard like my friend) we exercise, weight is out of our control.

  • I gained 26 lbs with my son. I ate very healthy and ran my entire pregnancy. The doctors kept saying I was measuring small, I needed to eat more, the baby may have IUGR, etc. He was born at 41 weeks weighing 6.12. He’s now 3 months old and at 60th %tile for weight. The Drs caused me so much unnecessary stress!

  • I gained 82(!) pounds with my first. Which I thought was ridiculous, given that 19 were gained in the first 20 weeks, and 63(!!!) was in the last 19 weeks… So, it turned out I have a thyroid issue, which I’m glad to know, but I thought something was off with that much weight gain in just a few months. I’m now 29 weeks with #2, and up 28 pounds. I’m ok with this, as I try to eat healthy foods, but I eat when I am hungry. I managed to lose all but 10 pounds from #1 before I got pregnant again, not too shabby for not knowing my thyroid was flipping me the bird for the first 8 months of my daughter’s life.

  • I had to come read this post because I knew it would make me feel better about my current weight gain. Thanks, Pregnant Chicken, yet again, for making me feel better 🙂

  • Ha. I gained 60 with each of my two babies. My daughter was 7lb3oz and my son was 6lb11oz, both were 19 inches. No big babies here! Although they both made up for their small size by growing to the 99th percentile. My son grew two inches in the first two weeks. Yes…an inch a week. He’s one now and towers over many two-year-olds like a Jolly Blonde Giant. And I lost all of the weight both times in under a year. And I genuinely tried not to gain so much weight, but no matter what I did, my body just kept packing on the pounds. I had a teacher in nursing school who said she thinks every woman’s body has a genetically predisposed "happy weight" and your body will naturally be inclined to get to that weight no matter what you do. I’m inclined to agree. Apparently, My body’s happy pregnancy weight is 206 pounds. Literally exactly the same both times. I never ate any differently than before pregnancy, but somehow my body just stored every calorie instead of using it for energy (man was I exhausted all.the.time!). The theory is backed up by the fact that after pregnancy, without changing anything, the weight pretty much melted off until I was back to normal. I exercised exactly twice and then decided I would rather die than run and wtf was I doing trying to run when I hadn’t slept in 3 months? Moral of the story, I think most women who start out a healthy weight don’t need to worry so much about how much they gain during pregnancy.

  • I would love to move to Europe with you. I gained 25 lbs trying to get pregnant and another 67 once I was pregnant. All of the women in my family gain like crazy when pregnant. Whatevs. I’m down 51 lbs so far (my son just turned 8 months old) and I’ve never been happier in my skin. Only gain 35 lbs? I was f*ing hungry! That’s just crazy talk….

  • I would like to say sometimes gestational diabetes is genetics rather then obesity. When I had my first child I weighed 98lbs when I got pregnant…. The doctors told me I was underweight and would have a low birth weight baby, 5 months later I'm diagnosed with gestational diabetes. 9 months and 35 pounds later I had a healthy 7 lb 8 oz baby boy and the risk of being diabetic when I'm older :- Now with baby #3 on the way I'm hoping to not gain much weight, I wish I was 98lbs now lol

  • Hahaha, I love everything you write 🙂 And I'd officially like to move to Europe with you (my last pregnancy I started off at a fantastic weight, gained 50 pounds, got preeclampsia and diabetes, and had a 5 pound baby. So much for the GIANT they were all so worried about!) This pregnancy I'm probably on track to gain about the same amount (though I'm starting at a higher weight) so we'll see if maybe I have FEWER complications! 😉

  • I gained exactly 7 pounds with my first…. and he came out 7 pounds and 1 ounce. I went home from the hospital in my pre-pregnancy jeans. And my whole pregnancy the doctors were worried I wasn't gaining enough weight, but it did not hurt anything. I'm now 35 weeks pregnant with my second and I have gained 20 pounds. I feel like a whale compared to the first time, and I have not done anything differently– I work out every day and eat the same stuff……

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