Weight gain during pregnancy: how much is too much?

The news no pregnant woman wants to hear has been officially announced in a report released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC): that almost half of all pregnant women in the United States gain too much weight in their pregnancy. Yikes!

You might wonder if it really matters to your baby if you gain too much or too little weight while they are growing inside of you. Unfortunately, it is something to be mindful of: too little weight gain can lead to an increased risk for having a too-small baby, and too much weight makes your chances of gestational diabetes, needing a C-section, and other birth complications like shoulder dystocia more likely.

Because of this, it’s important to adhere as best you can to the guidelines for weight gain that the Institute of Medicine recommends, which you can find here.

So if women are getting weighed at every prenatal visit and doctors and midwives know how important it is to try to stay on track, why is it that almost 50 percent of American women are gaining far too much? Here are 4 reasons that might help answer that question, and what to do to avoid these pitfalls.

Thinking that pregnancy = eating for two.

If only this were true! In reality, most pregnant women only need an extra 300 calories a day to support a growing baby (of course, this number varies if you are underweight to begin with or are carrying twins, for example). This is far from eating for two adult-sized people!

Hidden sugar.

So many foods may seem like smart choices, until you look a bit closer at their label. For example, many snack or meal-replacement bars that are advertised as being healthy contain far too much sugar. Then add in one soda or sugary beverage a day and before you know it, the pounds are adding up. 

Not getting enough exercise.

Though this myth is slowly fading, many pregnant women still think that rigorous exercise in pregnancy can be dangerous, when in fact the opposite is usually true! Women who don’t exercise in pregnancy are at a higher risk for gaining too much weight, developing diabetes, and needing a C-section. Here are some safe options for exercise while pregnant.

Giving into cravings too often.

The occasional treat in pregnancy is absolutely fine, but when trips through the drive-through become a common occurrence it’s probably time to step back and re-evaluate your eating habits. Don’t use pregnancy as an excuse to make poor food choices repetitively! If you find yourself struggling, consider seeing a nutritionist who can help get you back on track.

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About Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, Medical Director, Pregnancy

Dr. Jennifer Lincoln is a board-certified generalist obstetrician/gynecologist and attending physician in Portland, Oregon. She primarily works on labor and delivery has recently been certified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.


  1. And this just out too – talking about how we need to encourage/support pregnant women so that they know it is safe (and best!) to exercise in pregnancy so they don’t gain too much weight:


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