Anorexia and Pregnancy Don't Mix, Docs Say


While most expectant mothers marvel at the site of their growing baby bumps, Maggie Baumann says she was "horrified."

"As my stomach began to grow, I remember being in the shower and my bump was sticking out and I looked down at my body and I thought, 'I don't even want to be in this body,'" said Baumann.

Baumann, a 48-year-old mother of two, says she struggled with an eating disorder during her pregnancies, a condition sometimes referred to as "pregorexia."

"I wasn't even thinking about the baby," said Baumann of her first daughter, Christine, who is now 23. "It wasn't that I didn't want the baby, it was just that I could not stand the sight of my body."

Baumann, who lives in Laguna Niguel, Calif., told that she struggled with anorexia since her high school years, but that it worsened after she got married and began having children.

"I feared my pregnancy," said Baumann, who gained a normal 33 pounds during her first pregnancy. "I refused to buy maternity clothes and our neighbors didn't even know I was pregnant until the ninth month. I hid it well."

Kathleen Rasmussen, a committee chairwoman at the Institute of Medicine who said there has been virtually no research done on pregorexics, said it's not uncommon for expectant mothers to experience a range of emotions regarding their growing figure.

"Women have very different psychological reactions to pregnancy," said Rasmussen. "Some are just thrilled with their new body and the marvelous things it's doing and others are humiliated."

The Institute of Medicine recommends that women of normal weight gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy, and that those mothers-to-be who are underweight when they become pregnant should gain 28 to 40 pounds.

Baumann says that it was during her second pregnancy when she gained a measly 3 pounds that she saw her anorexia worsen.

"When I got pregnant with Whitney, I was just petrified to go through the changing body thing again and was scared to lose control," said Baumann, referring to her younger daughter. "I remember that I lost my waist really quickly and thinking to myself, 'Here it goes again.'"

Pregorexia Can Hurt the Baby

Dr. Robert Zurawin, an associate professor at the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Houston's Baylor College of Medicine, said that expectant mothers' fear of gaining weight is all too common.

"Women who are pregorexic -- or don't eat when they're pregnant because they're afraid of gaining weight -- need to think about their baby," said Zurawin.

"There are so many fad diets out there with no carbs and women are so obsessed with body image that they don't want to gain weight during their pregnancy because they're afraid of not being able to lose it afterward," said Zurawin.

"Women think that if they starve themselves during pregnancy, they won't look bad when they're done," said Zurawin.

Zurawin added that maintaining a well-balanced diet -- and not exceeding your doctor's recommendations for exercise -- are important for pregnant women to keep in mind, more so than whether they fit into their favorite jeans.

"It boils down to an expectant mother putting the needs of her unborn baby first," said Zurawin.

"What we'd like women to know is that what you eat affects how well your baby grows and how healthy your baby is," echoed Rasmussen. "This is a time in your life where it's really, really important to eat appropriately."

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