BACKGROUND: While weight gain during pregnancy is regarded as important, there has not been a prospective study of measured weight gain in pregnancy in Australia. This study aimed to prospectively evaluate pregnancy-related weight gain against the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations in women receiving antenatal care in a setting where ongoing weight monitoring is not part of routine clinical practice, to describe women's knowledge of weight gain recommendations and to describe the health professional advice received relating to gestational weight gain (GWG). METHODS: Pregnant women were recruited ≤20 weeks of gestation (n = 664) from a tertiary obstetric hospital between August 2010 to July 2011 for this prospective observational study. Outcome measures were weight gain from pre-pregnancy to 36 weeks of gestation, weight gain knowledge and health professional advice received. RESULTS: Thirty-six percent of women gained weight according to guidelines. Twenty-six percent gained inadequate weight, and 38% gained excess weight. Fifty-six percent of overweight women gained weight in excess of the IOM guidelines compared with 30% of those who started with a healthy weight (P < 0.001). At 16 weeks, 47% of participants were unsure of the weight gain recommendations for them. Sixty-two percent of women reported that the health professionals caring for them during this pregnancy 'never' or 'rarely' offered advice about how much weight to gain. CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of inappropriate gestational weight gain in this study was high. The majority of women do not know their recommended weight gain. The advice women received from health professionals relating to healthy weight gain in pregnancy could be improved.