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Mommyrexia - Dangers of Dieting While Pregnant

Dianna Graveman |20, February 2012


Mommyrexia - Dangers of Dieting While Pregnant

A dangerous new trend has emerged this decade--that of gaining as little (or no) weight during pregnancy in an attempt to return to pre-pregnancy shape immediately after giving birth. While the desire to lose baby weight and "get back to normal" has always been a topic of discussion among new moms, according to a recent article in the New York Post, that decades-old desire, fueled by our body-conscious society and the pressure to be thin, has spawned a movement among some groups of young pregnant women toward so-called "mommyrexia."

Pregnant women who intentionally gain less weight during pregnancy than is ideal for their body type are defined as having "mommyrexia," according to a recent report by CNN. Many of these women exercise excessively and count calories while pregnant in an attempt to restrict weight gain. Afterward, according to the New York Post article, some skip breastfeeding for the sole purpose of keeping their schedules open for lots of training and workouts so they can get back in shape as fast as possible.

Celebrities like Victoria Beckham, Rachel Zoe, and Bethenny Frankel reinforce the trend, says the New York Post, as photos of the women repeatedly show them with a barely discernible "bump" while pregnant and amazingly thin physiques immediately afterward. This dangerous trend can lead to health risks for the baby, including premature birth. Babies born to mothers who severely restrict their weight gain are also at higher risk for developing long-term developmental problems, according to doctors.

The American Pregnancy Association (APA) reports that approximately seven million women are diagnosed with eating disorders in the United States each year. A common eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, usually involves eating as little possible at all times to restrict weight gain. Women with bulimia typically experience binge eating and purging, through vomiting or the use of laxatives. Some women exhibit behaviors of both disorders at the same time.

While not every woman who severely restricts her weight during pregnancy can be diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia, the APA and British Medical Journal (BMJ) both report that women with those disorders have higher rates of miscarriage and premature labor, and their babies are at risk for low birth weight, stillbirth, delayed growth, and other complications. Unfortunately, some experts feel that pregnancy and an expanding waistline can cause a woman who suffered from an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa or bulimia when she was younger to experience a recurrence or relapse. Those women may want to seek counseling when considering pregnancy or shortly after becoming pregnant.

A healthy, average-sized woman should plan to gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy, according to the Mayo Clinic. An underweight woman might need to gain more--as much as 28 to 40 pounds. A woman who is overweight when she becomes pregnant will, of course, want to gain less, probably about 15 to 25 pounds. An obese woman may be encouraged by her health care provider to gain only 11 to 20 pounds, depending on the individual's condition and other health-related issues. However, all pregnant women should consult their health care providers before trying to limit weight gain.

It is important to realize that active, pregnant women are not "mommyrexic". Health care professionals generally agree that moderate exercise during pregnancy is a positive thing, and a fit mother is a healthy mother. In fact, some athletic-wear companies now offer a whole line of clothing especially made for runners or other athletes who maintain their workout routines on some level while pregnant. Always check with your health care provider before beginning or continuing an exercise routine during pregnancy and immediately after. Keep your eye on the ultimate goal: A strong healthy you and a happy, healthy baby.

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