“You really shouldn’t comment on a woman’s body when they’re pregnant . . . ”
This comment from Maggie Baumann a counsellor who learned from experience the dangers of pregorexia – anorexia during pregnancy.
As models, film stars and other media lovelies get even scrawnier the pressure on women to be unrealistically and unhealthily underweight has grown.
That is bad enough for the mental and physical health of women at the best of times, the dangers are more than doubled during pregnancy when too much exercise and too little food not only endangers the mother, it harms the developing baby.
A post on pregorexia last year is one of the most read on this blog. It was prompted by this story in The Press . It said pregorexia was real and caused by exposure to images of unrealistically underweight celebrities and figure-hugging maternity clothes.
Canterbury District Health Board psychiatrist Sue Luty, who specialises in eating disorders and perinatal mental health, said women limiting their calorie intake during pregnancy or overexercising was becoming “a huge issue”.
Women’s views of pregnancy were being distorted by images of celebrities who “miraculously” got back into shape soon after giving birth, she said.
This was unrealistic as the stars usually had personal trainers and many were too thin before their pregnancy, Luty said.
“It’s not normal for women to be skinny throughout pregnancy but they are seeing pictures in the media that say something completely the opposite.”
Luty said pregnant women were more fashion conscious than before and slinky, form-fitting maternity wear which showed off expectant figures was commonplace.
This put more pressure on pregnant women to stay thin, she said.
“A normal pregnancy shape is chunkier and bumpier but women don’t like that look in tight maternity clothes.”
Maternity clothes available when I was pregnant did their best to disguise the growing baby and I’ve admired the modern fashion for literally being upfront about the bumps but I hadn’t thought about the pressure this put on women to show without growing.
Too much of what passes for women’s fashion in clothes and bodies is misogynistic at the best of times. When unrealistic and unhealthy images become something to aspire to in pregnancy it’s time for a campaign to show that real women have real bodies with curves. A little bit of fat is not only healthier it’s also more attractive than the plastic stick figures the misogynists would have us become.
It could start with people refraining from commenting on other people’s body shapes, whether or not they’re pregnant.