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When women attempt to stay slender during a pregnancy with the use of a restrictive diet and/or an exercise regimen, this is known as “pregorexia.” Although the thought of dieting during pregnancy might seem ludicrous to many people, this condition has made inroads in the Western world especially, where women are often pressured to stay slender. Pregorexia may also lead a woman to try and get rid of baby weight as quickly as possible after giving birth.
The pregorexia trend appears to be driven by images of thin pregnant celebrities in the media. Celebrity pregnancies often get a great deal of press, and celebrities may feel an intense amount of pressure to remain as slender as possible while carrying a baby. Female celebrities already experience huge pressure to stay as thin as possible in Western society, pursuing grueling exercise routines and a variety of diets to do so.
While celebrities were once left largely in private to carry their babies, the modern media does not view pregnancy as an opportunity for privacy, and pregnant celebrities are often pursued by paparazzi. Magazines and gossip columns feel free to comment on celebrity bodies, pressuring some moms into trying to stay thin through the pregnancy to avoid negative commentary. This, argues psychologist Margarita Tartakovsky, sets up a trickle-down effect, which leads ordinary women to pursue celebrity bodies during pregnancy.
There's a reason women gain weight during pregnancy: they need to supply the nutritional needs of the babies growing inside them. If a woman fails to provide adequate nutrition for the developing fetus, she can experience severe health problems. For example, a fetus in need of calcium might take calcium from the mother's bones. Babies born to undernourished mothers may also have a variety of health problems, including a low birth weight.
By the third trimester, expecting mothers need almost 500 extra calories a day to supply the needs of the fetus. The restricted diets and intense exercise associated with pregorexia can, therefore, cause serious problems for the fetus. While the mother may have the slender figure associated with beauty in the Western world, she may have compromised the health of her fetus.
There are a variety of ways to combat pregorexia and related eating and body image disorders. Pregnant women benefit greatly from supportive care from friends, family members, and medical personnel. Being reminded that weight gain is natural and in fact expected with pregnancy can be beneficial, as can talking to a nutritionist about the needs of a baby, and ways to cope with pregnancy weight after giving birth. Breastfeeding, for example, often promotes a reasonably rapid and healthy loss of baby weight. Healthy exercise like yoga, gentle jogging, and swimming are also recommended for pregnant mothers who want to stay fit and happy.
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