Pregnancy Weight Gain & Exercise

Nursing Knowledge

Pregnancy Weight Gain & Exercise

Weight gain is healthy and expected during pregnancy. It is attributed to the growing baby, as well as changes that occur in the client’s body to support the developing pregnancy. Nurses should be aware of sensitivities around weight as well as healthcare biases, and provide advice for safe exercise during pregnancy to clients.
Last updated: January 5, 2024

Table of contents

How much weight should you gain during pregnancy? 

Next to 6–8 lbs attributed to the baby, there are changes in the pregnant body that account for more weight gain: 

  • Breast 1–2 lbs
  • Placenta 1–2 lbs
  • Uterus 1–2 lbs
  • Amniotic fluid 2–3 lbs
  • Blood 3–4 lbs
  • Protein and fat storage 8–10 lbs
  • Body fluids 3–4 lbs

Total healthy weight gain is individualized. 

Pregnancy weight gain chart 

Most healthcare providers use a BMI-based model to determine and educate clients about ideal pregnancy weight gain. Research is evolving around the validity of BMI as a measure of health and the significance of “excess” weight gain during pregnancy.

Pre-pregnancy BMIPregnancy weight gain
Less than 18.5Underweight28–40 lbs
18.5–24.9Normal weight25–35 lbs
25–29.9Overweight15–25 lbs
Over 30Obese11–20 lbs

Exercise during pregnancy 

Benefits of exercise during pregnancy

  • Promotes overall health
  • Reduces risk of pregnancy complications
  • Eases pregnancy-related aches and pains
  • Supports healthy weight gain
  • Prepares client for physical exertion of labor

General recommendations

  • Recommended amount: > 150 minutes per week, 30 minutes a day
  • If not previously active, start with low-intensity activity and build intensity over time. 
  • If accustomed to high-intensity exercise, limit to periods of 15 minutes.
  • Take precautions to prevent falls (shifting center of gravity!)
  • Prolactin increases flexibility in joints: Take care to not over stretch. 

Recommended safe exercises during pregnancy

  • Brisk walking
  • Stationary cycling
  • Yoga, Pilates, low-impact aerobics
  • Swimming
  • Jogging
  • Low-impact weight training

Exercises to avoid during pregnancy

  • Lying flat on back
  • Crunches and situps
  • High-intensity interval workouts
  • Contact sports
  • Activities with high risk of falling
  • Hot yoga or other excessive heat
  • Scuba diving

Nursing tips

Nurses should be aware of anti-fat bias in healthcare and how it may affect pregnant clients. Educate about healthy weight gain while providing client-centered care:

  • Screen all pregnant clients for history of eating disorders.
  • Discuss what weight and weight gain means to the client.
  • Ask how they want to discuss their pregnancy weight gain.
  • Respect client’s desire to not discuss weight, if applicable.


Pregnancy Weight Gain & Exercise

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Overview of weight gain and exercise recommendations for pregnancy.

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