Body image and pregnancy

    A woman’s sense of her weight status before conception may influence her risk for excessive pounds during pregnancy.

    A Temple University researcher says there may be a link between a woman’s body image and the amount of weight she gains during pregnancy. Too many pounds can cause medical complications for moms and their infants, so doctors are looking for ways to help pregnant women manage their weight gain.

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    Researchers asked women to guess if they were overweight, normal weight or obese at the start of their pregnancy, then checked those guesses.

    Herring: When these overweight and obese moms thought that they were lighter than they truly were, those moms were at a much greater risk of excessive weight gain during pregnancy.

    Dr. Sharon Herring lead the study and says many women mis-judged their weight status, but it’s unclear what drives those misperceptions.

    Herring: It may just be that they are not aware of what normal weight really is, and what overweight really is because everyone around them is overweight so they think that that’s normal.

    Herring says research on the link between body image and pregnancy weight-gain is still too preliminary to reshape the conversations doctors have with patients.

    Herring: But I would say that it’s worth figuring out what a woman thinks about her weight status at the start of pregnancy because it may influence how much she gains.

    Obstetrician-gynecologist Peter Gearhart says it’s tough to find time to talk with moms about weight management and other prevention practices.

    Gearhart: Obesity tends to be a bit of a side conversation and it’s always an awkward subject. It’s easy to talk about, but it’s very challenging to actually change the habits of the patient.

    Gearhart practices at Pennsylvania Hospital where he advises women to try to lose weight — or get their weight under control — before they conceive.

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