Why Obsessing About Pregnancy Weight Is Bad for Your Baby

We know gaining too much weight during pregnancy can be a problem, but the flip side can be just as dangerous.
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I only gained 18 pounds while pregnant with my first baby, so I really didn't get the whole "struggle to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight" thing.

Fast-forward three years when I spent much of my second pregnancy on bedrest, being shot up with hormones to keep me from going into pre-term labor. Total weight gain: 59 pounds.

Losing all that weight once my son was born was something that seemed insurmountable to me, and I spent every spare minute while he was napping on the treadmill or at pilates or doing hot yoga. I tried the Atkins diet, I had Zone meals delivered. Losing those 59 pounds was all I could think about.

It's kind of sad how focused I was on that particular goal. And I'm really not sure why. Did that pressure come from me? From watching the way the whole post-baby body thing played out every day in the media? I'm not so sure. Eventually, the weight came off. But until it did, it was all I could think about.

So I wasn't really surprised to hear that a 2015 study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found that nearly 21 percent of women do not gain the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy. Or that 48 percent of pregnant women copped to cutting calories, restricting entire food groups, and over-exercising in a 2012 survey by SELF magazine and CafeMom.

After all, if you don't gain it, you won't have to worry about how you're gonna lose it.

"Pregnancy means weight gain. And in our culture, weight gain is always [seen as] a bad thing," Rebecca Scritchfield, a registered dietitian told Fox News. "There's so much negativity that drives this fear that then drives them to make these potentially harmful choices."

Choices that may help them feel better about their bodies, but that are, in fact, quite dangerous for the unborn child.

Accoding to Dr. Daniel Roshan, director of ROSH Maternal-Fetal Medicine, if a mom isn't eating enough or is over-exercising, the baby is at risk for intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), a condition in which the baby doesn't grow normally and has a low birth weight, and which can lead to problems during delivery. Small babies may also need to be monitored in the NICU and can have trouble breathing, feeding, and have low Apgar scores. They may also have problems with brain development and intellectual disabilities, Dr. Roshan said.

So, how do we break the cycle?

Scritchfield suggests that instead of focusing on calories, workouts, and weight, pregnant women listen to their hunger cues, eat well-balanced meals, and exercise if it makes them feel good (but never to exhaustion).

"Rather than looking at your weight gain every day or even every week, you look at the patterns," she said. "[When] you look at patterns with your doctor...you'll see that most people gain within the range of what's recommended without trying to intervene and control it. When fear ends up driving the car, you end up making irrational choices that cause more stress, which is not good for you or the baby."

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.

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