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The Skinny on Pregorexia

For svelte celebs like Nicole Kidman, pregnancy seems like no excuse to give up a sleek bod. Even those who do gain a few necessary pounds to support the new life inside them appear ashamed of it. How many stories do we read about how quickly stars get slim again after giving birth, rather than enjoying their baby bodies? Gwyneth Paltrow, for example, who never looked more than 140 pounds soaking wet while pregnant, talked about squashing her post-pregnancy tummy into two girdles to “get back her figure,” as if it were something she had carelessly misplaced. 

We live in a culture that sees weight gain of any kind as some kind of moral lapse, but if you’re pregnant, you should be gaining weight. You’re not getting bigger because you’ve decided to ditch the gym for Krispy Kreme; you’re getting bigger because you are making a person

Doctors now have a name for this obsession with staying thin while pregnant: pregorexia. In an interview on CBS’s Early Show, Holly Philips, a New York internist and medical reporter for WCBS-TV, told the audience that she considers women to be pregorexic “when they start to change their behaviors and really focus only on that number on the scale, only on their weight. That’s when it gets dangerous. Everything you do during pregnancy, including your diet and exercise, should be for your health not for your weight.” 

So how much weight gain is healthy? Most obstetricians recommend exercise, but how much is too much? Always consult with your doctor whenever you have questions about your pregnancy, but for some general guidelines, read on. 

Hey Mom, I’m Hungry!
Calorie restriction during pregnancy is very dangerous to both the fetus and the mother. If a pregnant woman does not meet her daily calorie requirements, her child may have growth and birth defects. Also, the female body channels nutrition to the fetus before the mother. So if you’re not getting enough calcium, for example, your child will try to meet his considerable growth needs by stripping calcium from your bones. Osteoporosis and a newborn? No thank you. 

While you’re pregnant, make sure you’re getting plenty of calcium (at least 1,000 mg/day), iron (about 30 mg/day in combination with vitamin C for absorption), and folic acid (400 micrograms/day, especially during the first trimester). These are the important nutrients for you and your baby’s health to promote growth, inhibit birth defects, and make sure you have enough energy for toting around your tummy. 

How Much Weight Is Enough?
There are so many conflicting messages regarding weight gain during pregnancy, which is probably why women are so confused and more susceptible to erring on the side of skinny. According to Fit Pregnancy, 46 percent of women gain too much weight during pregnancy, resulting in a host of pregnancy complications and negative outcomes for a child. Primary among these is the recent report of a link between pregnancy weight gain and childhood obesity. 

As in all things, moderation is key. Dr. Philips recommends that women gain between twenty-five and thirty-five pounds during pregnancy. If you’re overweight before conceiving, aim for the lower end of that range, and if you’re underweight before pregnancy, shoot for a weight gain of between twenty-eight and forty pounds. Women carrying twins should expect to gain about forty-five pounds.  

Exercising While Pregnant
Most doctors recommend thirty minutes of moderate cardiovascular activity four days a week to improve the mother’s mental and physical health, pave the way for an easier delivery and postpartum recovery, and potentially boost the baby’s IQ. 

Most doctors, however, don’t recommend overdoing it to the point where you aren’t getting enough oxygen. The right amount of exercise during pregnancy depends upon your activity level before conceiving. That means if you were a couch potato before becoming pregnant, don’t expect to be a triathlete with a baby bump. Always check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine, and opt for low rather than high impact activities (walking versus running, for example).

Rule #1: Enjoy
You only get to carry your child once. When he or she is leaving for college at eighteen, what would you rather recall about your pregnancy: counting calories and stepping on the scale every five minutes, or the time in your life when you were most in tune with your body and what it can accomplish? You will go through plenty of changes before and after giving birth, but they’re all good. Weight gain that supports a baby is more a cause for wonder than shame.

Just relax and enjoy your mama glow. No matter what shape your body takes as you become a home for your little guy or gal, you’re sure to be a knocked up knockout.

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