Pregnancy: Americans vs. Italians

As I enter the 4th month of my journey, I am becoming more curious about the differences between pregnancies. What sparked my curiosity was reading “What to expect when you’re expecting”. This book is the pregnant woman’s guide to everything she needs to know… and more. As I read, I find myself skipping a lot of the information that doesn’t pertain to my or my pregnancy.


From doctor’s visits to weight gain, everything in Italy is completely different than the U.S. pregnancy. So in preparation for this post, I spoke to the Italian ladies who I teach as well as a teacher at my school (who is an American) to get the Italian version. I also posted some questions to Facebook for my American friends so that I could compare the two. The results were actually quite fascinating.


First let’s start with weight. According to ALL of the books I’ve read so far, as well as the American College of OB/GYN, the average woman should gain about 25-35 pounds (11-16 kilograms). Of course, that will vary if the woman is overweight, obese, or underweight. So, depending on you and your doctor, your target weight could be anywhere from 10-40 pounds (4.5-18 kilograms).


This news is quite shocking to the Italian mind! My doctor and I discussed my target weight at my last appointment. We talked about my pre-baby weight loss and the fact that my body was used to carrying 20 lbs more than what I am. Therefore as long as I don’t go over 20 lbs I was ok but my goal is 15 lbs (almost 7 kilograms).


With the responses I received from the Americans, 70% of my friends were within the 25-35 lbs guidelines ad 30% went over. For their 2nd pregnancy, 60% weighed less than their 1st & 40% gained more and for the 3rd pregnancy 70% weighed less than the 1st & 2nd pregnancies and 30% weighed more than the 2nd but less than the 1st. While processing this information, I couldn’t help but think of the Italian ladies who were shocked at these numbers. They really couldn’t believe that someone would gain 60lbs (27 kilograms) for 1 child. [more than 1 person gave this answer to one of my questions] Both sides, were the same when it came to the 1st trimester. Some only gained a few pounds while other lost weight. When they questioned why someone would gain so much weight for 1 baby, my only response was, “Because they are eating for two.”


In my opinion, most Americans see pregnancy as a way to finally eat anything they desire, where as Italians (maybe most Europeans) see food as energy. My mother-in-law always tells me that I’m “eating for two” when she give me more food after I say “stop, that’s enough”. I keep telling her, “I’m eating for me, the 2nd person is only the size of (insert appropriate size)” Of course, I need my energy so, I will eat what I need to, but I don’t want to overdo it and add more weight than needed. (that’s the Italian way of thinking) My doctor has told me that I really should only gain the baby weight meaning, Baby, placenta & amniotic fluid…… and that’s it!


I spoke to the American girl who teaches English at the school I work at. She is expecting her first child in December. She has only gained 12 kilos (25lbs) and her doctor told her that she has gained too much! Her mother-in-law even told her she was “huge”. I assure you, Jenny is not huge! She’s all belly and that’s it! To me, she looks small. As for the other Italians, they all gained 10 kilograms (22lbs) or less. One lady I talked to gained 16 kilograms (35lbs)… but she was had TWINS!


When it comes to cravings, Americans give in to everything their hearts desire. One of my questions to my friends was “What did you crave and did you give in?” Everyone answered that, “YES!” they gave in all of the time to their cravings. Everything from watermelon, pickles, apples, crackers, salad, Mexican & Italian foods. If they wanted it, they ate it. I asked this same question to the Italians and their response…… “I didn’t crave anything.” As I asked this question again, I got the same answer. I wondered how that was possible and I still haven’t quite figured it out.


I have come to this conclusion, as Americans, we feel obligated to give in because we’re expecting and therefore we have the right to indulge in our desires.(all of these books tell you it’s ok “as long as you don’t overdo it) Italians feel obligated to continue to their lifestyle of eating regardless of their status. Americans eat a lot of processed foods. Canned, frozen, ready made & fast foods… it’s a staple of the American way, filled with added salt, fat and other ingredients you can’t pronounce. Italians eat fresh foods grown by local farmers, use fresh ingredients while making that homemade tomato sauce for their pasta. So, they are able to eat that gelato for desert if they want. Not to mention, Americans rely on their cars to get them where they need to go. Italians rely on their legs,feet and public transportation. So, they get that added exercise to help balance out the food intake and weight gain.


I’ll say this again, I’m in my 4th month….. and I haven’t gained any weight yet. You might think that I’m still too early in my pregnancy to add that much weight, but let me show & tell you what I’ve been eating… (especially this past weekend).


I’ve been craving American/Tex-Mex foods: Ranch & Blue Cheese dressing, Quesadillas, Eggs & Potatoes, Eggs & Sausage, Biscuits & Sausage Gravy, Cornbread & Chili, Ham sandwiches, and finally…. Cheeseburgers. I can honestly tell you that I’ve eaten all of the above except for the Blue Cheese dressing. In addition, I’ve also had pizza, gelato, focaccia, more gelato and endless cups of Hot Chocolate made with Nutella.


2 weeks ago, we had a cold front, so I made Biscuits & Sausage Gravy

*(thanks google images)


this past Friday, it was still a little chilly, so I made Cornbread & Chili for lunch

*not my actual plate. (thanks google images)


Then on Friday night, we had dinner at Mamma Adelasia’s. The first course was Minestra



and the second course was Arrosto with mashed potatoes, & roasted bell peppers

(arrosto is turkey breast, egg & creamed spinach rolled up and roasted in the oven)



Saturday, I was treated to breakfast in bed!

Peach juice, water, butter cookies, a croissant filled with Nutella and another filled with Apricot jam




I happily ate the breakfast my husband prepared for me and enjoyed the view from my bed


For lunch, I ate more Cornbread & Chili.


For dinner, we met my new friend (and blog reader) Jill and her boyfriend Florent for pizza


By Sunday, we toned down the food by eating pasta for lunch and gelato for dinner. Then I got hungry again so, I had a slice of Focaccia before going back home.


So, dear blog reader, there you have it! We shall wait and see what the next few weeks will look like and how much weight I will gain by the 5th month.


1 kilogram = 2.2 lbs


4 thoughts on “Pregnancy: Americans vs. Italians

  1. You are so funny and clever. I LOVED your research. I'm not surprised at all by your findings either. Americans are kind of ridiculous sometimes. I would love to experience the European life just as you are. It sounds wonderful compared to here sometimes. I did have a doctor tell me once though that you don't technically have to gain any weight during your pregnancy. By this point I had already gained 20 pounds! haha. too late. Anyway, enjoy your pizza and gelato, I say. It's not because I feel like I can eat whatever I want when I'm pregnant… it's because after what a woman goes through in pregnancy I feel she DESERVES to eat whatever she wants! =) You look great, by the way, so keep doing what you're doing!


  2. I must add, it also depends on your genetics and stature. Some people are short waisted and will show right away because there is no where for the baby to grow. Some people will go full term and you never even knew they were pregnant.


  3. First off, so very happy for you! Congratulations on your pregnancy. As a Canadian, I followed my own rules – ate as healthily as possibly during both pregnancies. I did not eat for two. Like you, I ate for me. With my 1st, I gained 29 lbs. The second time, I gained 31 lbs. I did have cravings – blueberries & zucchini flowers (I know – very odd, but fortunately also very healthy! LOL). My rule is: take care of your body, for it is taking care of the child inside of it. Treat it kindly & respectfully so that it & your child will thank you. Good luck with the rest of your pregnancy!


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