Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pregorexia: scary, but very real

Pregorexia: some of you may have heard of this term, some of you may have not.

This term didn't even exist until up to a few years ago and was coined to describe the plethora of pregnant women out there who do everything they can to prevent the natural weight gain of pregnancy. From over-exercising, to over-dieting, this phenomenon is more than real, and it's very, very sad.

Where did this new trend for pregorexia come from? Well, we can't really point fingers, but with the Hollywood obsession our society has, and the recent trend for pregnancy among female actresses, we can't help but notice how thin these women stay while carrying their next child.

For example, stars like Angelina Jolie and Nicole Kidman both looked unnaturally thin during their pregnancies, leading all women to believe this is the norm.

Now, I'm not saying that women need to stuff their faces silly during their pregnancies, or abandone their exercise routine. Not all all. But, restricting calories and pushing exercise even when your body is yelling at you to back off, is totally wrong.

To define pregorexia, it's a term often used to describe preoccupation with weight control through extreme dieting and exercising while pregnant. Physicians are concerned that more women than ever are experiencing this condition, without ever realizing the health effects they're having on their unborn.

I found this story by a woman named Maggie Baumann, who experienced pregorexia during both her pregnancies. Her story is very sad. Due to her restrictive eating, after birth, one of her daughters eveloped seizures and attention deficit problems, which her doctor suggested may have been linked with poor fetal nutrition. Now, Maggie is a family therapist who is trying to help women avoid this condition. Here's some of her story below with a link to the remainder.

Pregorexia: Starving for Two
Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pregnancy is a time for most women to embrace the wonders of pending motherhood. Picking the baby's name, speculating about the sex of the baby, and often, enjoying the freedom to "eat for two" make up some of the traditions expecting mothers experience.

However, for 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.

Here are some other good reads on pregorexia:

(It's very interesting to read the comments below these articles).

Also, on a personal level, one of my physician friends told me her experience with one of her clinic patients while in Ob/Gyn residency: "This thin woman, of 36 years, tried for 14 months to get pregnant. When she finally did, she didn't give up on her intense exercise and dieting regimine, but kept this quiet to us. Until the day she came in for extreme bleeding. She miscarried at 10 weeks. Since she was at the age of genetic abnormalities in a fetus, we did complete genetic testing on the unborn. Nothing was found. When we did a complete history, all we could identify was her intense exercise and dieting as the cause, supported by her very thin and lean build."

Overall, if you know you struggle with food and your body prior to becoming pregnant, and you would like to produce a healthy child, please address these issues with someone who can help you (your therapist, etc).

Remember, you're creating a new life. You wouldn't be here unless your mother took the care to create you, and the same holds true for your unborn child. You don't have to gain more weight than recommended, but you should at least aim for those recommendations (between 20 and 40 lbs depending on your height and prior weight). And, remember, after your hormone levels balance back out, your body will quickly revert back to normal, especially if you were fit before pregnancy, and if you breastfeed. So don't fear pregnancy, ebrace it, and look forward to the new friend and family member you're about to meet.


Love, Music, Money said...

I would also suggest, "very rare".

Most women, especially women who have been maintaining a lower weight, have been doing so by exercising a lot and eating as little as they can stand to. Too many women embrace "eat for 2", even though we technical eat only about 20% more calories than we need for ourselves, and use the excuse of pregnancy to avoid exercise altogether. I'd say that this latter scenario is much more common, and is also unhealthy for mother and child.

It would be nice to see a research-based article about achieving a healthy balance of eating and exercise. Anecdotal stories about these rare cases aren't helpful to pregnant women. There's enough to be scared of already.

UofMWolverine81 said...


For working with athletic women who pften have a close handle on their food intake, do you have any rule of thumb guidelines for how many kcals to add on top of their usual intake so as to provide enough for the developing fetus + a small extra calorie "buffer zone" so that any tendency toward keeping too close an eye an things is more than counteracted?

Bernee said...

Interesting, I heard of this until now! That's unbelieable!

Casey said...

Pretty scary stuff. I know that this is pretty rare like love music, money said, but with the way celebrity trends catch hold in the main stream its not hard to see how this could explode in our society!

Marni said...

Case, I love your pregnancy posts! It isn't it amazing how our professional education and need to inform others changes as we progress through different periods in our life. Sounds like you are doing a great job educating others on a healthy pregnancy! Stay healthy and keep enjoying what you do!! Miss you!
*I have athletes who struggle with eating before and during an Ironman competition and it is hard to convince an athlete to eat well, after spending all that time training and preparing the body, in order to perform well. I think the underlying issue is body image and if more people understood inner health, as opposed to what people think they look like in the mirror, we would have a healthier nation.