Wednesday, June 3, 2009

From "Pregorexia" to Pregnancy Weight Guidelines: Let's Talk About What Women REALLY Need

In a MomLogic story that has been burning up the blogs, mother Maggie Baumann discusses her bout with the media-invented term "pregorexia" (we've taken issue with all these "-exias" and "-mias" before). This is not to say that what Baumann experienced wasn't very real. She struggled throughout her pregnancy to gain weight and faced deep and damaging insecurities. She writes:

[F]or me, pregnancy was a nine-month battle in which I lived in a dissociated state from my body -- horrified by my expanding "self" that protested every ounce of weight I gained. I did not experience the freedom to eat for two; rather, I experienced the restriction of starving for two.

While this article stresses the dangers of not gaining enough weight during pregnancy, the newly released guidelines from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council (the first revision since 1990) recommend that very overweight and obese women gain less weight during pregnancy than what was previously advised.

Yes, it's unhealthy to gain too little weight during pregnancy and it's unhealthy to gain too much. But an obsessive focus on pounds is not the solution when you're trying to grow a baby, especially because so many women who struggle with unhealthy eating are already caught up in a dangerous relationship with the scale. Doctors should be helping their patients get to the root of what is causing them to overeat or undereat. Women should feel safe enough to communicate honestly with their healthcare providers about past and current body image issues or disordered eating. Sadly, this is rarely happening.

Of the pregnant women and mothers we surveyed for Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat?, seventy-six percent of those who said they had suffered with poor body image, disordered eating or full-blown eating disorders admitted that they had not discussed these issues with their OB or midwife. If we really want to ensure the health of mothers and babies, we need to start addressing this very heavy silence.

"Pregorexia: Starving for Two" [Mom Logic]
"Pregorexia: What Happens When Moms Aren't Eating Enough?"
"Drunkorexia, Stressorexia, Orthorexia, Diabulimia: Is Healthy Eating Extinct?"
"Less Weight Gain for Pregnant Women" [New York Times]


What you see, is not who I am said...

When I was pregnant with my son, a friend of my mother's was pregnant with her 3rd. She'd gained 60-80 pounds with each previous pregnancy and had fought to lose it after each baby.

This pregnancy would be different she vowed and gained only 19 pound and was thrilled.

Her daughter was born full term but labled a premie because of her weight and a few minor development issues - no eyebrows and such.

Her doctor told her it was because she watched her weight too closely and her body NEEDED to gain the weight for her pregnancy.

My son was born a week after her daughter and even a year later, was ahead of her in terms of walking etc.

With my second I lost 30 pound due to an illness in my 3rd month and then gained 50 so it was a mess for my doctor.

Eat healthy, throw the scale out the window and enjoy being pregnant!

Cammy said...

I just saw a feature about "pregorexia" on a news show this morning, and one of the anchors scoffed that "anorexia is the MOST selfish thing you can do, should these people really be mothers?"

Hear that? It's the sound of my blood boiling.

Claire Mysko said...

What you see, is not who I am:
Yes, the focus should be on a woman's physical AND emotional health. And your advice about throwing out the scale is right on the mark! There's really no reason to track your own pregnancy weight gain, especially if you feel those numbers have the potential to trigger insecurities or unhealthy behaviors. If your doctor needs to weigh you, you can always ask that s/he not share the number with you.

Claire Mysko said...

Cammy: That is infuriating! I might have hurled something at the TV. There are so many myths and so much misinformation floating around about eating disorders and disordered eating. Again and again, women told us that they keep their issues to themselves (i.e. don't reach out for help or even talk to their doctors) because they are afraid that others will think they are "selfish." Their fears are not entirely unfounded, as your example illustrates. But we have to push through that. We have to keep talking and resisting the media sensationalism. We have to do our best to take care of ourselves and our children.