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Some Basic Stats on Weight Gain During Pregnancy

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

I cannot believe my eyes every time I see the gossip magazines talking about some celebrity’s upcoming pregnancy. No matter how you feel about a woman, you should be happy for her and supportive when she’s facing the prospect of motherhood, especially when it’s her first baby that is on the way. But rather than talk about the positive aspects of parenthood, or even silly things like what baby clothes she’s buying, or the type of crib she’s going to put into her nursery, all the magazines can do is talk about the weight they’ve gained during their pregnancy.

This is simply astonishing to me. When did the most important part of a woman’s pregnancy become how much weight she is putting on? As if our society’s standards of beauty weren’t bad enough, now we have to go and turn those “skinny at all costs” ideas on expectant mothers? The simple fact is normal-sized women are supposed to put on weight during pregnancy. Obese women have other recommendations for pregnancy weight gain. Studies show that the average woman should gain at least 25 to 35 pounds while pregnant.  Actually, the ideal weight gain should be closer to 11 kg or about 22 pounds.  This obsession with weight has led to a condition known as “pregorexia”, which is a rare condition, but becoming more common, which pertains to a woman’s drive to control pregnancy weight gain through extreme dieting and exercise.  This is an eating disorder and it shouldn’t be when it comes to women who are pregnant.  It is an outgrowth of all of this idiotic media focus on appearance and body images that average women strive to resemble celebrities.

When our society starts shaming women for gaining weight during their pregnancy, or suggesting that women are unhappy because of a few extra pounds they’ve put on, it can do a lot of damage to mothers and children. Are we creating a culture of women who are asking their doctors no, “What can I do to keep my baby healthy?” but “How can I make sure I don’t gain too much weight while I’m pregnant?” I’ve already made it known what I think about our culture and its standards of beauty. The fact that people in our society would rather focus on thinness rather than on the health of expectant mothers and their children is unbelievable.  On the other hand, the guidelines for weight gain in the average women should not be ignored.  Women who gain 50-100 pounds during their pregnancy are also putting their pregnancy and unborn child at increased risk for preeclampsia, diabetes and caesarean birth.

When the appropriate weight gain is achieved in the normal-sized patient, women  who are pregnant should not be ashamed of the weight they’ve gained—every pound that they put on should be worn as a badge of honor, as its proof that they are nourishing a happy and healthy infant with their bodies. When I see a woman who cares more about the health of her child than her dress size, I applaud them for having the courage to do what’s right and to stand up to the standards of our crazy society.


– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.