Diet and Pregnancy and Weight Gain: Steady weight gain during pregnancy is normal and important for the health of the mother and baby. However, it is important not to gain too much weight. When a woman becomes pregnant, not only does her tummy become large, she also increases her fat stores in preparation for breastfeeding. This may be around her buttocks, thighs, tummy, back and breasts. In pregnancy it is very easy to gain more weight than is required which is unhealthy for the pregnant woman and baby. It can make it hard to lose this weight when the pregnancy is over. A healthy weight gain for the pregnant woman also ensures the baby achieves optimal growth and therefore reduces the risk of complications at birth.

In addition, it is very easy for the developing baby to become too fat. If a baby is born with too much fat, it is at risk of birth injuries and it is more likely to grow into an obese child and eventually an obese adult. Obese adults are at increased risk of many serious health problems as they get older such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, some cancers, and arthritis. The good news is that it is relatively easy for the mother and baby to avoid putting on too much weight in pregnancy. You do not need to be on a diet to do this; in fact women shouldn’t diet during pregnancy! However, please note you only need to eat for one! You do not need to eat any extra for your baby.

Weight gain during pregnancy is related to your pre-pregnancy weight. The table below indicates the expected weight, using your body mass index (BMI). Overall, lighter woman gain more weight, and heavier women will gain less weight. Lactation Support Service “To achieve and maintain a healthy weight gain, be physically active and choose amounts of nutritious foods to meet your energy requirements.”

Pre-pregnancy BMI  

Total weight gain  

kg/week (13 weeks   onward

underweight   (<18.5)


normal weight (   18.5-24.9)


overweight   (25-29.5)



obese (>30)



The Australian Dietary Guidelines provides advice on the amounts and kinds of food to eat during pregnancy for good health and wellbeing.

A healthy pregnancy diet ‘in a nut shell’

Eat Most

Whole grains   including breads, cereals, rice, pasta and Fruit and Vegetables

Eat Moderately

Protein rich   foods including fish, chicken, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy products and   lean meat

Eat Occasionally

Mono saturated   fats eg: olive and canola oils, Limit Sugar, salt, tea, polyunsaturated fats,   such as sunflower and safflower oils. Caffeine: coffee or equivalent to no   more than one a day. Mild, no more than one glass a day. Saturated fats such   as butter and fat on meats.


All sweetened   drinks (soft drinks, cordials, sports drinks, iced coffee, sugared tea and or   coffee. Fruit Juice is rich in sugar. Hot chips and potato chips. This and   sugar drinks are the main cause of excess weight gain in pregnant women and non-pregnant   women. Take away food is high in salt, fat and sugar.

A healthy pregnancy diet includes the following:

Food Groups


Example of 1 Serve

Breads, Cereals


1 slices bread  I/2 cup cooked rice/pasta/noodles  2/3 cup cereal  1/4 muesli



½ cup vegetables  1 cup salad



1 medium apple

Yoghurt, cheese, milk *low fat and sugar, high calcium


1 cup milk or soy milk  2 slices cheese (40g)  200g yoghurt

Meat, fish, chicken, eggs, nuts, legumes

1½ - 2

100g meat  1 cup legumes  30g nuts


2 litres

Water is best  Avoid alcohol

If you adhere to the above diet advice and do some exercise, (see ‘Exercise in Pregnancy’) you will find it much easier to return to your pre-pregnancy weight and in, your baby will be healthier at birth.

Exercise in Pregnancy : When you are pregnant we encourage you to be as healthy as you can. This means eating healthily and exercising most days. Moderate to vigorous exercise (exercise that elevates your heart rate but where you can still talk) is preferable to gentle exercise. Breathing hard during exercise is not harmful for you or your baby. 30 minutes of exercise a day is excellent, for instance a brisk 30-minute walk is perfect. If you think you are too busy for this, remember that 15 minutes is much better than no exercise. Exercise such as walking, swimming, aqua aerobics or yoga during pregnancy has many benefits, for instance

  • You will be better prepared for the physical demands of labour and motherhood
  • Your posture improves
  • You and your baby will have a smaller gain of body fat
  • You will have a healthier baby
  • You will recover more quickly after birth
  • Pregnancy aches and pains will be less bothersome
  • Mood and energy levels will improve
  • Balance, strength, coordination and flexibility are improved or maintained
  • Faster return to pre-pregnancy weight and fitness.

Risks of exercise: Occasionally your doctor will ask you to minimize exercise, for instance if you are developing preeclampsia or if you are at risk of bleeding during your pregnancy from a low placenta and so forth. In addition, you need to be cautious when you are pregnant. Your posture changes and you can unbalance more easily. Don’t expose your baby to the risk of falls or hard bumps to your tummy, for instance playing contact sport, skiing, and horse riding. Avoid vigorous exercise in hot weather. Check with your midwife or doctor before starting a new exercise program, to ensure you and your baby are not at risk. You should avoid running and straining exercises such as gymnastics and weight lifting for the first six weeks after birth so your pelvic floor can recover from childbirth.

  • Tips for being physically active during and after pregnancy:
  • If 30 minutes is too hard break it up, try 10 minutes exercise 3 times a day
  • Be active through the day in as many ways as you can, aim to move more.
  • If your occupation requires sitting for long periods, stand, stretch and do a light exercise such as 5-10 squats every 30 minutes.
  • Join the hospital “Fit for birth classes”
  • Avoid lying flat on your back.

Sport and Pregnancy: Unless women have complications, it should be possible to enjoy your sport at some level throughout pregnancy. It is not recommended to continue contact sports after 4 months of pregnancy. It is important to discuss the sport and the required level of activity and associated risks with your Doctor or Midwife and sporting organisation before you make a decision regarding continuing or discontinuing your normal sporting activities.