11 June 2007

Obese mums-to-be should lose weight during pregnancy

As I have discussed in previous posts, the media and biomedicine consistently villify overweight pregnant women for 'risking' the lives of their babies and themselves. Many obese pregnant women are discriminated against even in Victoria hospitals and often required to lose weight before the hospital will take them on board for their antenatal care. Moreover, a number of studies have suggested that obese women are more likely to suffer from gestational diabetes or require a Caesarean because excess fat complicates natural birth.

Apparently a new study from St. Louis University is saying that obese women do not have to gain ANY weight during pregnancy and in fact, they can lose weight safely without doing harm to the unborn baby. The principal researcher, Dr. Raul Artal, says:

"We found that obese women do not have to gain any weight, and, in fact, can lose weight and it won't hurt the baby. Pregnancy is an ideal time to start an exercise and fitness program, particularly for women who are obese."

Quite obviously, there is nothing wrong with encouraging pregnant women (and all women in general) to maintain a sensible weight coupled with a healthy lifestyle. However, does anyone else find it bizarre that this doctor would suggest that pregnancy is the best time to start a fitness program?

Women should want to be healthy for themselves, not just because they are pregnant. That might sound a little strange, but the chances of maintaining an exercise/nutrition program are really low for women who are doing it just because they are pregnant and worried about the baby. What happens after the baby is born? As I've said before, it may not be medically 'ideal', but there are plenty of overweight women who give birth to perfectly healthy babies. Pregnancy is not a time to stigmatise women who are already undeniably painfully aware of their body size in a culture that valourises thinness over any other virtue.

Are overweight women going to be charged with child abuse for refusing to lose weight during pregnancy? Give me a break.

You can read the entire article here:

1 comment:

Sazz said...

I was wondering if you could list and/or quote any studies you might know of that suggest pregnant women should not aim to lose weight. For some reason it seems to me like a dangerous precedent to set (that is to encourage women to obsess about their weight during pregnancy) but it is just a hunch, I don't have anything to support my concern...

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