pregnancy weight gainPregnancy can sometimes seem like a package deal: to get the baby, you’ve got to gain some weight. This reality can be a bitter pill to swallow for some women, especially those who’ve battled with excess weight at any time in life before becoming pregnant. Any woman can go to extremes to keep pregnancy weight down but women with a history of anorexia, bulimia, extreme workouts, and other eating disorders, are more likely to continue or revive them during pregnancy. Doing so imperils the mother’s health and can jeopardize baby’s health, too.

Food obsessions that can rob a baby’s health are increasingly being labeled pregorexia. This term is not an official medical diagnosis but it pretty clearly describes a trend medical specialists are seeing with increasing frequency.

A maternity weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds is considered healthy and desirable within the medical community. This amount of added weight is good for mother and baby alike but Dr. Ovidio Bermudez estimates as many as 30 percent of the pregnant women in the US do not gain enough weight during pregnancy. Bermudez is chief medical officer of the Eating Recovery Center in Denver, Colorado.

Much has been written about the health risks associated with excess weight and obesity before and during pregnancy but being underweight during pregnancy is equally undesirable. Both conditions can lead to premature delivery, babies large or small for their gestational age, increased risk of C-section delivery, infant mortality, and maternal mortality.

The value of a woman’s pregnancy weight is becoming an increasingly important issue for gauging the health of a pregnancy and the life-long health of the child. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) identifies undesirable gestational weight gain (GWG) as less than 16 pounds (too little) and 40 pounds or more (too much). Women falling into these GWG categories have increased markedly since 1990.

The IOM considers a woman’s pre-pregnancy weight and body mass index (BMI) of such importance to the health of a pregnancy that it is advocating for their inclusion on every birth certificate in every state to include the weight and height of a woman at the beginning of a pregnancy or at the time of her last menstrual period. The institute also wants to see birth certificates include the weight of the mother at time of delivery and is calling for adapting subcategories of obesity into grades I, II, and III instead of the single diagnosis now used.

The inclusion of these vital statistics on a birth certificate are thought to be indicators of the future health of the mother and the child she bears.

Source: Rasmussen, KM, and Yaktine, AL, editors. “Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Reexamining the Guidelines.” US Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. National Academies Press. 2009. Web. Dec 3, 2013.