The Truth About Pregnancy Weight Gain

I think every expecting mama worries a bit about pregnancy weight gain. That’s healthy and normal. It’s GOOD to be concerned about taking care of yourself and your growing baby during pregnancy! But I know a lot of women—me included—can get TOO worried and preoccupied with the number on the scale during pregnancy.

This pregnancy I vowed I’d make things different from my previous two. Those times I gained about 55 pounds apiece over my pregnancy. I did that by heinous binge eating with #1, attempting but not succeeding at Intuitive Eating with #2, and not consistently exercising either time. So with this baby, I found a ton of prenatal workout DVDs I loved and knew I’d be able to stick with all 9 months. I started logging my food, at first on MyFitnessPal and later on in a simple handwritten journal. I weighed in weekly with a specific goal to gain 30 lbs total in mind.

And overall, I’ve done a REALLY good job! But I’m not perfect, believe you me. Today I want to be real about pregnancy, eating, and weight gain. This pregnancy has been far and away the healthiest of my three pregnancies, but it’s still had its share of less-than-perfect moments. Guess who has eaten ice cream the past three days in a row? Yep. Yours truly.

I tell myself the fat in ice cream is good for my baby's brain development. It's ALL for the baby, right? I'm so noble to sacrifice like this.
I tell myself the fat in ice cream is good for my baby’s brain development. It’s ALL for the baby, right? I’m so noble to sacrifice like this.

I try hard to stick to healthy meals and snacks daily with dessert 2x a week. But let me tell you, hormones and discomfort and raging hunger can make that hard to stick with. I’m quite disciplined when it comes to exercise because I genuinely LOVE to move. I’d exercise daily even if it burned zero calories just because I like it. But the healthy eating side of the coin is much harder for me. And, obviously, healthy eating is critical to healthy pregnancy weight gain.

Much of what you read tells you to shoot for steady gain of 25–35 pounds over your 9 months of pregnancy (note that the total gain amount may be more or less for you depending on your pre-pregnancy BMI and if you’re carrying twins). And I’m proud to say that I’ve done that. But the biggest thing I want to convey today is this: looking at any single data point when it comes to weighing yourself can get you really upset for no good reason.

I weigh myself weekly. I think weight is one of many good indicators of overall health, and I like knowing what that number is doing. But I don’t base my entire happiness on it. And I don’t pay too much attention to what it does from one week to the next. I try to zoom out and see the big picture:

pregnancy weight gain week by week


This is the chart generated from MyFitnessPal that shows my weight gain over this pregnancy. Notice how it’s a nice, pretty much gradual upward line?

Yet down below I’ve listed my week-to-week amount gained. Was it a nice and tidy +1 each week? NO. Yes, I had indulgences I probably shouldn’t have here and there, but my eating and fluid intake was pretty steady from weeks 15 onward (once my morning sickness abated). The amount I gained each week didn’t seem like a direct result of my eating: some weeks I felt like I’d really overdone sweets and gained like .2, whereas others my eating had been very disciplined and I gained nearly 2 pounds.

Looking at the overall picture—a gain of 29 pounds at 36 weeks, meaning I’ll likely end up within that healthy 25–35 pounds gained zone—makes it clear that I should be pretty proud of myself. Flipping out over the gain between Weeks 14 and 15 or 33 and 34, though, would not have been helpful. The big picture is key when it comes to weight. What you should care about is the overall trend, not individual chart points. I think this is especially true during pregnancy. Things like fluid retention, constipation, and hormonal shifts can make the number on the scale even more erratic than it is for the average person. So if you’re like me and like to weigh in, great. But please: remember that even healthy gain may look kind of crazy from week to week!

Week 7: 0

Week 8: 0

Week 9: 0

Week 10: +1.4

Week 11: +.6

Week 12: +1.8

Week 13: +.2

Week 14: +.4

Week 15: +3.0

Week 16: +1.6

Week 17: +.8

Week 18: +.8

Week 19: +1.6

Week 20: +.2

Week 21: +.8

Week 22: +.8

Week 23: +1.6

Week 24: +1.4

Week 25: +1.8

Week 26: +.4

Week 27: +.4

Week 28: +2.6

Week 29: 0

Week 30: +1.6

Week 31: 0

Week 32: +.4

Week 33: +1.8

Week 34: +3.2

Week 35: -.8

Week 36: +1.8

Last of all: suppose you know your eating and exercise has been consistently awesome over your pregnancy, but you gain 40 or 50 pounds total anyway? Well, provided that what you’re doing day to day really is healthy, then don’t worry about it! That’s easier said than done, but really. Every woman’s body and pregnancy is different. When I gained 55 pounds in my first two pregnancies, I knew exactly why: consistent overeating. But I also know women who run marathons, do CrossFit, and live otherwise awesomely healthy lifestyles that gain more than 35 pounds. It’s just how their bodies do pregnancy, and there’s no reason for them to be upset.


I think that numbers from doctors—like gaining 25–35 pounds in pregnancy—are helpful and appropriate for most of us. But there are always genuine exceptions. Those suggestions aren’t absolute, hard-and-fast rules. Some of us are just going to gain a lot in pregnancy because that’s how our bodies respond to carrying a baby. Others may gain less than recommended no matter how much junk they eat (sigh—marrying into a genetically thin family is rough that way. My sisters-in-law are TINY pregnant people!). So take anything the scale tells you with a grain of salt.

Anyway. I wish you the best in your own quest to gain healthily over pregnancy. Remember that OVERALL PATTERNS matter more than individual weigh ins, and that healthy habits matter more than anything the scale might say. If you know you are taking good care of yourself and your baby, then the number on the scale should be totally irrelevant. And be a pirate in your attitude towards general “shoulds” from your doctor or anyone else when it comes to how much you should gain, too. They’re more like guidelines anyway.

Wish me luck as well as I try to finish out these last 4ish weeks of pregnancy without letting my sugar cravings run my eating off the rails. We can do hard things!

Irritable Uterus (Yes, That’s a Thing)

Today I’m writing about something that I didn’t realize existed until this weekend: an irritable uterus. No, I didn’t make that up.

irritable uterus
Image from

Update on Me (36ish Weeks Pregnant)

Brief backstory: I am on my third pregnancy. With each of my first two babies, my water broke at home 3ish weeks before my due date. I wasn’t having any contractions either time. But we called up my doctor and were told to head to the hospital, and both times I was admitted right away once rupture of membranes was confirmed. After waiting 2 hours for labor to start on its own (which it didn’t) I was put on Pitocin. Both times I opted for an epidural once I was dilated to about a 5. And both times, within a few hours, I was holding a healthy baby girl.

So here I am on my THIRD baby with zero idea what really going into labor is going to feel like. I’m TERRIFIED of not making it to the hospital in time and having my baby delivered in the passenger seat of my car.

False Alarm

Back at the end of August, when I was 34 weeks to the day, I started having regular tightening that I was pretty sure were contractions. I’d been having one or two of those a day for the past month or more, so I wasn’t too concerned. I went grocery shopping and started feeling more and more of them. None were excruciatingly painful by any means, but a few were uncomfortable to walk through (like really bad period cramps). I got myself home and got in bed with a big bottle of water, but even then, the contractions kept coming until they were about six minutes apart. So we decided we’d better get to the hospital.

We went up to L&D where I was hooked up to a monitor to see what my contractions were doing. Sure enough, I was having some, but they were little and fizzled in regularity as time went on. I was sent home (which was great—I didn’t want my baby to come at 34 weeks if I could help it). The phrase the nurse used was that my uterus was “irritated,” and I was told to stay hydrated and take it easy. As it happens, I was dilated to a 2, but the L&D nurse didn’t seem worried about that either, since apparently that’s not unusual for someone who has already had several babies.

So I’ve been chugging water diligently since that false-alarm visit and have scaled down my workouts. I’ve been attacking an adult coloring book and a biography of of Alexander Hamilton as projects that will keep me off my feet. I’m doing everything “right.” Yet I still have these mild contractions, sometimes as often as every 5 minutes, and sometimes for hours straight, regardless of what I’m doing.

What Is an Irritable Uterus?

I did a bunch of Googling (probably a bad idea, but what pregnant woman doesn’t?) and found that lots of other women out there are told they have an “irritable uterus” too. Blogs and message boards are FULL of women whose experiences sound similar to mine: frequent, uncomfortable but not usually painful contractions that just don’t let up, EVER. Here’s a more authoritative take on it, but really, I didn’t find much that looked like it was from a legit medical authority. I’m glad I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow so I can talk to my OB about it.

irritable uterus
I was extra uncomfortable and bummed over the weekend, so I went out and bought this shirt. Yes, it DID make me feel better. Hehe.

I’ve started just trying to ignore the contractions. At this point I know that I don’t need to run to the hospital for something that’s been going on for weeks and doing nothing. But I hate that I have the occasional ish-painful contraction that both gets my hopes up AND stresses me out. I’m 35 weeks 5 days today, which I know is earlier than ideal for my Scarlett to come. But still, I’m getting big and heartburn-y and tired of being pregnant, and getting SO excited to snuggle a little baby. And I know that though Scarlett really ought to stay put for another 2–3 weeks at least, she’d probably be fine if she came now . . . and that train of thinking gets me so impatient and bummed that I just have to pull out my coloring book and will myself to do anything but fantasize about cuddling a newborn (or envision a horrifying scene of Mark delivering my baby in the passenger seat of our Accord on the shoulder of the freeway).

Irritable. To heck with my uterus being irritable: I’M irritable! And uncomfortable. And confused. And paranoid. And cranky. Really, I just want Scarlett to be born healthy, when the time is right, and in the hospital. I’m sure all those things will happen, but it’s still hard not to worry.

Have any of you been told you have an irritable uterus? Was there anything you did that helped it calm down? Or at least, that helped YOU calm down?