Before you start to panic about the cupcake you wolfed down last night with that ice cream chaser, no, pregnancy weight gain is not the cause of autism. But according to Science Daily, a study out of the University of Utah says there is a link between pregnancy pounds and babies that end up being on the autism spectrum. According to researchers, added weight or fat in the body can change various hormone levels or be a sign of inflammation, which can then in turn impact your baby’s fetal development. So the pregnancy weight gain can be a marker for autism, but not a cause of it.
Autism spectrum disorders—which affect 1 to 2 percent of the population, or one in 88 children in the U. S.—are neuro-developmental disabilities that can range from mild to more severe. Children with autism display social problems, communication difficulties, and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior. The study looked at a group of 128 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and compared them with a control group of 10,920 children of the same ages and genders. A second group of 288 children with autism were also studied against data of their unaffected siblings.
The study, which was published in the November edition of the journal Pediatrics, found that small increases in weight—in 5-pound increments—while pregnant were linked to “a slightly higher but significant risk for autism”. The crazy thing is there was an average difference of only about 3 pounds in weight gain when comparing mothers of children with and without autism.
The authors of the study fully admit more research needs to be done on the matter to help identify what actually causes autism (according to Desert News, next up they will take blood samples “during the pregnancy of autism-related cases. If biomarkers are found showing a higher risk of the condition, the study states that a window of clinical opportunity could emerge for this mechanism of injury to be prevented.” Prevention could range from educating moms-to-be about wellness programs to development of drugs to counteract the weight gain. Until more conclusions are made, researchers warn there is no need to freak out and change your diet just yet!
TELL US: Will you be watching your weight more closely because of this study?
Kate Levering plays the tough-as-nails, succeed-at-all-costs attorney Kim Kaswell on Drop Dead Diva, who found out at the end of last season that she’s—gasp!—pregnant. While Kim is always impeccably dressed, she’s not always the nicest. So I was relieved to find that Kate is the exact opposite of her TV alter ego. Though equally ambitious, Kate’s not at all bitchy—even when she’s allowed to be, because she’s just weeks away from giving birth (she’s due in August) and she’s filming in Hotlanta. In summertime, people!
More like a chatty best friend than someone on a hit TV show, Kate was happy to talk about all things pregnancy—including the fact that she’s due with a boy, had a fun “safari chic” baby shower, and is now in full-on nesting mode, but can’t do much about it because she’s filming in Atlanta, while her husband, Reza, and unfinished nursery are in LA!
Read on to find out how Kate’s off-screen pregnancy has influenced her on-screen one, what she thinks of everyone bashing former guest star Kim Kardashian for her pregnancy weight gain, and why she’s warding off an epidural. Yes, really!
Is it true your character, Kim, got pregnant before you did?
Yes! It’s life imitating art, but I like to say I’m just that good of an actress that the writers wrote it, and I made it happen in real life!
So you didn’t have to wear a fake belly like most actresses playing a pregnant woman?
No, in fact because our filming schedule was pushed back from February to May, I showed up way more pregnant than my character was supposed to be so I spent the first few episodes holding a lot of folders in front of my belly and sitting behind desks. I even had one emotional scene where I just sort of hugged a pillow the whole time. We had to get creative!
How is Kim pregnant: extra bitchy or has pregnancy softened her?
A little bit of both. She’s really been thrown a curve ball and she’s in denial that she’s pregnant. She’s such a workaholic and she’s not very maternal, and at times we see her about to crack, which is nice because we’ve never seen that side of her character before. So there is some vulnerability revealed as well as she gets extra bitchy to people. It’s kind of like a regular pregnancy, where you’re just all over the place!
Did being pregnant make it easy playing a future mom?
Yes, I didn’t have to try hard because I already had the waddle down and was subconsciously rubbing my belly, so it was perfect.
How has it been working such long days when being pregnant is already exhausting?
Well, I’m only doing eight episodes instead of the full 13, and the crew has tried really hard to keep me hydrated, make sure I’m not on my feet too much, or wearing heels for too long. Someone is always right there with a chair in between takes. So I can’t complain. I’ve actually had a really enjoyable, carefree pregnancy. I keep joking with my friends that I should have been way more high maintenance because now my husband thinks being pregnant is a breeze. I should have milked it!
Women take to pregnancy differently. Some feel confident and feminine. Others can’t help being self-conscious and moody thanks to the hormones. How have you been so far?
Watching my body change has made me feel the most feminine, confident and sexy I’ve ever felt. Although, now I’m getting down to the end where you can’t tie your shoes or shave your bikini line so then you start to feel not-so-sexy. But I’ve loved being pregnant. Now I’m worried that I’m going to become one of those women who’s always knocked up!
So much has been made about pregnant women in the news: Kim Kardashian was criticized for “getting too heavy,” Kate Middleton was said to be “too small.” What do you make of all the talk? I think it’s really sad that women are being made to feel bad during what should be the most special time in their lives. I worked with Kim Kardashian on the show and she is the tiniest thing with these great curves. She didn’t look anything like Kate Middleton to begin with, so why should their pregnancies be compared? When you’re pregnant, you have no control over what happens to your body and where the weight goes, so why make women feel bad about themselves? I think that’s awful. Pregnancy should be celebrated!
What’s been the best part of expecting?
Feeling my baby kick for the first time was the most incredible emotion I’ve ever felt. Even feeling my baby kick now—all the time—that excitement never goes away.
What’s been the most surprising?
That people aren’t more willing to help you when they see that you’re pregnant. I was flying and my belly was huge, but no one offered to put my carry-on in the overhead compartment. So next time you see a pregnant woman, if you’re not pregnant yourself, offer to help her!
Now for the big question: Epidural or no epidural?
I probably shouldn’t say this in case it doesn’t go as planned, but I’m not planning on having an epidural. I have a midwife, and I’ve read Ina May’s Guide to Natural Childbirth. I think our culture has scared women to death when it comes to childbirth, which is something so natural and beautiful that we shouldn’t be frightened of it. But talk to me after I give birth!
Tune in Sunday, 6/23, to see Kate in all her pregnant glory (no stunt belly required!) for the fifth season premiere of Drop Dead Diva at 9 pm ET on Lifetime.
TELL US: Are you excited to see Kate’s character pregnant on Drop Dead Diva? What real-life pregnancy symptoms do you hope are played out on TV?
Ok, so it’s not exactly on the market, but Huggies has developed a “pregnancy belt” that has given some dads-to-be the ultimate Father’s Day present: the ability to feel his baby kick—not by putting his hands on his baby mama’s bump, but in the dad’s own belly! It took four months to create the belt that “replicates in real time the movements and the baby’s kicks, from mom’s belly to dad’s belly.” (If this thing were at Brookstone, I’m sure it would sell out way faster than those massage chairs!)
As you can see from the video, the dads are overcome with emotion when they feel their babies kick—as was I. I wish my husband had been able to experience that overwhelming love I felt each time our son kicked. After of course I realized that’s what was happening—it took a few times before I knew what I was actually feeling. Early on the sensation felt like butterflies in my stomach, but as my son got bigger and stronger his kicks and elbow jabs were unmistakable. I’m pretty sure he was dancing nonstop—kind of like his mom and dad. While it wasn’t always the most comfortable feeling, every tap brought a smile to my face, knowing that my little one was somehow communicating with me as if to say, “Hi, mom!”
As much as we moms say we wish our guys knew all that we had to go through while pregnant, I was really surprised when my hubby came down with a bad case of sympathy pains. I had morning sickness for months, and there were days when my husband felt nauseous too without any real explanation. His back and knees were also hurting right along with me—and I admit I was not sympathetic at all. Puh-lease! There’s no way what he was feeling could ever compare to my sharp-as-glass pains. Or so I thought.
And while I gained 20 pounds of baby weight with my pregnancy, my husband gained 15. Who could blame him, if he was going on a donut run for me, why not get one—or two, or three—for himself? But getting the post-baby pounds off has proven to be just as hard for him as for me.
So it’s fair to say that my pregnancy wasn’t easy on him either (and I didn’t even mention my emotional mood swings he had to endure!). If he had to suffer right alongside me with pains and belly fat, I wish he had experienced the good stuff too, and nothing beats the warm-and-cozy feeling you get when you feel your baby inside you. All men should feel what these lucky few got to. Come on Huggies, get this belt in stores stat!