Pregorexia dangerous for mothers and babies

August 7, 2008

The pressure to have a perfect body now extends to pregnancy. I feel so strongly about this I am copying the story in full:

Expectant mothers are dieting and exercising to excess as they try to mimic Hollywood stars with svelte figures weeks after giving birth.

British maternity experts have identified an alarming phenomenon called “pregorexia” where women continue to diet throughout pregnancy so they have less weight to lose once their baby is born.

New Zealand experts says pregorexia is real and caused by exposure to images of unrealistically skinny pregnant celebrities, such as Nicole Kidman, and form-fitting maternity clothes. It also jeopardises the health of mother and baby.

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.”

While pregorexia was extreme, dieting during pregnancy was becoming more prevalent even among people who had not experienced eating disorders before, Luty said.

Nutrition Society of New Zealand spokeswoman Jane Coad said there was growing concern about women limiting the food they ate, as a result the nutrients available to their baby, during pregnancy.

Coad said in an attempt to stay slim women often avoided dairy products and meat which contained calcium and iron essential during pregnancy.

“There seems to be a real sense of competition to get back to pre-baby shape as soon as possible which is not realistic and certainly not healthy,” she said.

This is beyond sad, it is dangerous.

What does it say about women that unrealistic expectations of body image allow us to put our own health and that of our babies at risk?

What has happened to that basic instinct which meant mothers put our babies’ needs before our own; that vainity comes before nutruring?

Why do we allow the fashion industry to treat us with contempt by designing and promoting clothes which fit and suit only unnatural body shapes?

We can blame it on the media, but we don’t have to buy in to the pressure to be unrealistically, unhealthily and unattractively underweight.

Real women have breasts and hips and bottoms. Real women have fat. Pregancy changes our body shapes. We need to accept what’s normal and spurn the misogynistic Barbie-doll idea of beauty.

As the sign outside a shop is Spain said:

Somos 3,000 millones de mujeres en el mundo ys sólo 8 son supermodelos.

There are 300,000 million women in the world and only 8 are super models.


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