During Pregnancy, Starving for Two

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Last week, new guidelines urged women to be more vigilant about weight gain during pregnancy. While much of the focus is on women who gain too much weight during pregnancy, health officials estimate that about 20 percent of pregnant women don’t gain enough weight, which can lead to premature delivery, low birth weight and long-term health problems for the baby.

Today, the momlogic blog features the story of a woman with “pregorexia,” a term often used to describe preoccupation with weight control through extreme dieting and exercising while pregnant. The writer, Maggie Baumann, now a family therapist in Newport Beach, Calif., says a normal weight gain of 33 pounds during her first pregnancy led to an obsession with controlling her weight during her second.

It was during my second pregnancy when the disorder appeared in its full force. I simply told myself, “I am not going to gain a lot of weight, and I am not going to allow my body to get ‘big’ like I felt happened with my first pregnancy.”

My doctor never knew the extreme exercise routine I followed. No one knew. I kept my calorie restriction, my exercise intensity and extended workouts a secret, even from my husband. When my doctor instructed me to stop exercising, I rationalized that I would not work out in the gym, but I could power walk and do whatever I could to burn calories “outside the gym.” I truly believed at that time my baby would be safe.

Ms. Baumann gained a total of 18 pounds on a 5’8″ frame, but as an accompanying slideshow illustrates, she barely looked pregnant. During the 7th month of pregnancy, a bleeding problem suggested the baby was experiencing intrauterine growth retardation. After birth, her child developed seizures and attention deficit problems, which her doctor suggested may have been linked with poor fetal nutrition.

After pregnancy, Ms. Baumann says she continued to struggle with anorexia but is now in recovery.