Being pregnant comes with a lot of stuff for a woman to deal with. Morning sickness that lasts all day, mood swings, sharpened sense of smell, having to pee all the time, weirdos touching your belly. And, of course, getting fat. In fact, during pregnancy, women gain an average of 25 to 35 pounds. For some women it’s annoying, for others it’s a great excuse to eat like there’s no tomorrow. But for women with eating disorders, things can get downright dangerous.
Though it is not an official diagnostic term, researchers have lately been looking more into a phenomenon known as “pregorexia,” or extreme dieting and exercising while pregnant. It’s obviously very risky not just for the mother, but for the baby too. After all, there’s a reason that women get fat when they get pregnant. It turns out that creating another human person inside you requires extra calories. Still, for some women, the prospect of gaining weight is linked with a loss of control, something they are not emotionally capable of handling for any number of reasons.
Former “pregorexic” Maggie Bauman told CNN that even though she gained weight normally during her first pregnancy, when she got pregnant a second time, “I was just like, I am not doing that again, I am not getting that big. I am not getting that out of control." Despite warnings from her doctor, she was just unable to stop her diet and exercise, even though she knew she was supposed to. "It did not register to me like, 'OK, now I need to start trying for this baby,'" said Baumann.
Some speculate that the rise of pregorexia – estimates suggest as many as 30 percent of all women in the US don’t gain enough weight during pregnancy – may be linked with media obsession with celebrities losing the weight they gained while pregnant. After all, even Kate Middleton wasn't exempt. When the media practically shames famous women for what naturally happens while a human child starts growing in your midsection, it sends a message that pregnancy fat is not a good thing but an evil to be eradicated, and that even becoming a mother doesn’t change the fact that a woman’s number one goal should be to stay thin and desirable. Barf.
I mean really guys, this is what we’ve come to as a society? We are actually making some women feel so terrified of getting fat it even extends to gaining weight while pregnant? But then, this is also the country that doesn’t legally require so much as a single day of paid maternity leave. It’s not as though having a child is an important thing for the survival of the species or anything, something we should maybe support when women chose to do it. No, having a baby is an inconvenient thing that interferes with her duty to work and look sexy all the time, and we as a nation are not going to support it gosh darn it.
As disturbing and upsetting as pregorexia is, we can’t pretend this came out of nowhere, not when so many women and girls already have eating disorders. Though, doctors do say that having a history of eating disorders does not automatically mean a woman will develop pregorexia, and that not all woman who start an extreme diet and exercise regimen while pregnant have a history of eating disorders.
Even though the number of women who do go to this sort of extreme is rare and will hopefully stay that way, it’s a telling indication of the sorts of signals we are sending women. If there was ever a time to start seriously promoting healthy body image, it would be now.