Attitude Determines Weight Gain in Pregnancy

If you think you are eating for two then you might just end up eating more than you bargained for, according to researchers at Penn State College of Medicine.

Research1 from Penn State College of Medicine shows that overweight or obese women with the mentality that they are “eating for two” are prone to put on more weight while pregnant.

Cynthia Chuang, associate professor of medicine and public health sciences, studied the attitudes and habits of women who gained appropriate weight and those who exceeded guidelines. Overweight is defined as having a body mass index of 25 to 29; obese is having a BMI greater than 29.

The researchers interviewed 29 post-partum women who were, based on the classification of the researchers, overweight or obese before pregnancy. Out of this group, 11 met the appropriate guidelines and 18 exceeded them. Participants were questioned about their diets, experience with morning sickness and their physical activity habits during pregnancy.

“Overall, the women were more goal oriented in terms of regulating weight during pregnancy,” Chuang said.

Thus, the women who gained weight considered appropriate were the ones who stuck to a meal plan and focused on the foods that were good for them. These women also had little or no increase in the amount of calories they consumed during pregnancy and exercised as much or more than they had before the pregnancy.

However, the women who described the experience as “eating for two,” gained more weight than they should have. They were also more likely to have fewer goals and exercise less than usual during their pregnancy. They also made bad food choices and ate more because of cravings. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends only 300 extra calories per day for normal weight pregnant women, and less for those who are overweight or obese.

None of the participants who exceeded the weight gain guidelines met the federal exercise guidelines, which recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. About half of the women kept track of their weight when measured at prenatal care appointments or at home.

Too much weight gain during pregnancy can lead to postpartum and long-term weight gain and obesity. It can also cause premature birth and other unfavorable events.


1. Cynthia H. Chuang, Michael R. Stengel, Sandra W. Hwang, Diana Velott, Kristen H. Kjerulff, Jennifer L. Kraschnewski. Behaviours of overweight and obese women during pregnancy who achieve and exceed recommended gestational weight gain. Obesity Research & Clinical Practice, 2014.