You probably see it every time you pick up a magazine at the supermarket – some pregnant celebrity who manages to stay super-thin for nine months except for a small bump, and who bounces right back to a size 0 seemingly days after the birth. Although that kind of weight gain is natural for some women, for other women it can be downright dangerous. And as more and more women go to unhealthy extremes to remain thin during pregnancy, doctors have come up with a name for this harmful condition: pregorexia.
Most doctors agree that the average, healthy weight gain for a woman during pregnancy is around 25 to 35 pounds, depending on the mother’s size and whether she is currently underweight or overweight. The baby accounts for about eight pounds of the weight gain; the rest comes from the placenta, uterus, amniotic fluid, breast tissue, blood supply, and necessary fat stores.
Gaining weight through a healthy, balanced diet will ensure that you and your baby get all of the nutrients you need to carry out a healthy pregnancy. Moderate exercise, with your doctor’s approval, can also play an important role. But when women take dieting and exercise to the extreme – and either don’t gain enough or lose weight during pregnancy – the baby and the mother can both suffer.
The dangers to the fetus associated with pregorexia include low birth weight, developmental problems, and an increased risk of prematurity. Developing babies who don’t get enough folic acid may end up with birth defects. Additionally, a fetus that doesn’t get enough calcium may wind up getting it from her mother, which can be harmful to the mother’s bones.
Of course, many women still have a problem with gaining too much weight during pregnancy. So how do you stay healthy without going overboard in either direction? Here are a few guidelines to help you keep a good balance:
Stick to your healthy diet, and then some: Maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet is essential for a healthy pregnancy, experts say. A pregnant woman needs only an additional 100 to 300 calories per day, and they should be high-value calories like those from yogurt, nuts, fruits, vegetables, or whole-grain products. Remember, now is the time to enjoy a little extra healthy food, not hold yourself back.
Modify your exercise routine: If you’ve always had regular, rigorous workouts, now’s the time to take your workouts down a few notches. You should never work out to the point of exhaustion while you are pregnant. If you aren’t used to being active, start out slowly with low-impact activities like walking, and always get your doctor’s approval first.
Focus on health, not on shape: Gaining weight during pregnancy is a healthy, natural process. If you start to notice a few extra pounds on your hips or thighs, don’t panic, and by all means don’t start restricting your diet. You can always work out more once the baby is born, but for now, you must allow your body to do what it needs to keep your baby healthy.
Find flattering, fashionable clothes: Some pregnant women start having body image problems when they can’t find clothes that look good on them. But being pregnant doesn’t mean you have to wear an old burlap sack. There are plenty of fashionable maternity styles these days. Find some outfits that make you feel good (if you’re on a tight budget, check out thrift stores or your friends’ maternity hand-me-downs) and wear them proudly. You’re growing another human being – What job on earth could be more important?