Nothing says fun like taking your 5-year-old in for his kindergarten checkup, i.e. The Checkup That Requires Shots. (Bonus points for bringing along a tantruming 2-year-old who is missing his nap!) So it was in this frame of mind that I was looking for a little diversion, magazine style. My choices were the regional magazine, Mnpls/St Paul, which as far as I can tell is 256 pages of advertisements with an additional 4 pages of advertisements featuring “local” models ’cause actual articles might impede all the advertising they are trying to do; Family Fun, which really ought to be titled Mother Guilt (Now in color!); and Fit Pregnancy. I, naturally, picked up the latter.
There I was, giggling over all the questions sent in by neurotic first-time moms (Question: “My baby was born two weeks early, should I wait an extra two weeks to start him on solid foods – just to be safe???” Their answer: Why wait? Feeding solids is fun!! My answer: Feeding solids is a huge pain but I wouldn’t worry one way or the other – if your baby isn’t ready, he or she will just spit it back in your face. They’re not masters of subtlety at that age.), when I came across an article called Too Much Mama. The premise of the article is that obesity in mothers causes a whole host of health problems for both the mother and the baby, fantastically illustrated with a story about a poor obese woman whose placenta exploded and had to deliver her baby early (thankfully they both survived and are healthy). The article pretty much comes right out and blames her weight for the placental failure. I’m not saying the health risks aren’t real but, really, how common are exploding internal organs?!
As if that isn’t enough to give any woman, gestating or not, nightmares, the article segues neatly into how the IOM (the government’s Institute of Medicine) is in the process of revising the weight gain guidelines for pregnancy saying that the current ones are too high. They even give you a handy little chart where you can look up your current BMI and it will tell you the old guidelines and then the new guidelines. (Maddeningly, the chart is not included when you click thru the above link.)
For me, a woman of normal weight with a “healthy” BMI, they used to say to gain 25-35 pounds. Which seemed about right to me. That’s about the range I gained during all four of my pregnancies and all of my kids were born happy and healthy (save for the first one, who died of genetic complications not at all related to my weight). However, the revised guidelines say I and all other normal-BMI women should gain – are you ready for this? – 5-22 pounds. FIVE FREAKING POUNDS?!? My babies all by their little butterball selves weighed in on average at 10 pounds each. What about my placenta and growing uterus and the fact that my blood supply has to double? And don’t forget the visit from the Titty Fairy in which I gain at least two pounds in each boob. Will no one think of my breasts?!?
I was so upset about it that I took the article in to the pediatrician’s office with me and after my son’s exam was over (but before the shots – I’m not crazy) asked her about it. She looked bewildered for a moment and then said she hadn’t heard about the revisions although they “sounded reasonable” to her. Upon seeing my face purple with apoplexy, she added hastily “but then I don’t have any children.”
In case you are curious, if you are “overweight” according to the BMI scale, then you are advised to gain 0-15 pounds. “Obese” women are broken down into 3 categories of obesity with category I women gaining 0-9 pounds, category II women gaining nothing at all and category III women are actually advised to go on a diet and lose about 9 pounds. While pregnant.
I do realize that some women lose weight while pregnant – my sis-in-law did it – and I’m certainly not knocking that if that is what they and their doctors decide is the best plan. But it seems highly irresponsible to mandate a woman lose weight while she’s pregnant. In my mind that sets up a whole host of problems that could be damaging to the health of the mother and child in an entirely different way.
So my gut reaction is to tell the IOM to take their revised recommendations and do something very impolite with them. But then the little part of my brain that loves nothing more than science wonders if perhaps they know something we don’t? After all, they do have access to years and years of research and data and medical files. Also, in generations previous, women have been advised to gain only about 15 pounds per singleton pregnancy. So maybe this is like portion control – just creeping up on us over the years until we don’t realize what we’ve done?
And then the other other part of me (split personalities hereby acknowledged) thinks that women have been getting knocked up, gestating and birthing babies since, oh, the beginning of time. Maybe all the scientists should shut it and just let us do our thing. In the meantime they can work on a cure for breast cancer because that runs in my family and you know I’m already freaking out about it.
What are your thoughts on the new guidelines? How much weight did you gain in your pregnancies? If you’ve never been pregnant, how does it sit with you to have someone telling you in advance that you can’t eat ice cream even if you’ve been puking all day long and it’s the only thing that sounds remotely good to you? And if you don’t have a uterus, well, um, how’s your prostate doing? Eat your lycopene today??