Unrealistic expectations about pregnancy and weight gain aren’t just hard on celebrities. Regular women who feel to stay fit and thin during and after pregnancy may be more likely to develope “pregorexia,” or an eating disorder during pregnancy. At least, that’s what some eating disorder specialists are warning, according to an article in the Canadian Press today. But is it really that simple?
As the Canadian Press points out, the images and perceptions perpetuated by celebrity pregnancies have real, damaging effects–which is true, and an important message. Photos of celebrities like Tori Spelling and Victoria Beckham looking fit even late in their pregnancies, and the pervasive idea that baby weight should come off almost immediately (ahem, Beyonce) can trigger disordered eating in pregnant women, and those who have recently given birth.
And while this isn’t exactly new information–pregorexia has been getting quite a bit of attention in the past year–this article does do a pretty great job of highlighting the actual health risks of an underweight or malnourished mom. Lower Apgar scores, anemia, and higher risks of miscarriage or birth defects are all possible if the mother-to-be doesn’t receive proper nutrition.
Which means these images and messages are more than just a problem of low self-esteem; they’re an actual health risk, both for mothers and babies. But there’s more to it.
Diagnosis of the condition is also kind of a problem. The Mayo Clinic calls pregorexia “extremely rare,” but as the article states, actually getting numbers on how many women experience distorted body image and disordered eating patterns during pregnancy is tough. That’s because there’s still a lot of shame surrounding eating disorders, and women aren’t exactly open about those kinds of emotions.
Additionally, much like diagnosing anorexia by quantifying weight loss is problematic, judging whether or not a woman is experiencing emotional duress by what the scale says can be pretty inaccurate. Just because a woman isn’t underweight during a pregnancy doesn’t mean she’s perfectly healthy, mentally or physically–and prenatal care givers need to be aware of the symptoms or signals that a pregnant woman may be suffering.
Of course, it’s also a matter of what we, as women, expect from ourselves. It’s mportant to remember that for many celebs, staying relatively slender, even during pregnancy, may be critical for their career. They have trainers, chefs, and gurus to help them with every aspect of their pregnancy.
But that pragmatic voice is a lot easier to tune out when media outlets lavish positive PR on”amazing!” post-pregnancy weight loss and condemn women like Jessica Simpson for gaining weight. And for women who have already experienced disordered eating and poor body image, those kinds of messages from tabloids and news outlets are a huge trigger. Which is why it’s critical to not only remain critical of pregnancy and body-snarking, but also to applaud mothers like the ones in Connecticut who dare to add their own, realistic images to the discourse.
Unrealistic pressure to stay thin during and immediate after pregnancy isn’t just a vanity problem. It’s about the health of moms and kids–and I’m glad the Canadian Press took the time to highlight one facet of this complex problem.
Image via WENN