Recently, I was alerted to a relatively-famous fitness blogger's attempt to encourage women to stay fit during pregnancy. She showed a throwback photo of herself in a bikini, at 6 months pregnant. She gave a shout-out to other fit moms and said fit moms are usually fit before pregnancy and only gain the required amount of weight. She said most women begin overweight, then eat for two and remain sedentary after the birth, accumulating too much weight and therefore normalize unhealthy behavior. At a tertiary glance, she didn't look "fit" necessarily, just slim.
I'm not going to name this person because I have no beef with her, it was just another notch on what I think is a disturbing trend: the pressure to only gain a specific number of pounds during pregnancy and shed the weight immediately post-partum, as well as the notion that pregnant women can and should go just as hard as ever for all nine months. What I saw in the comment section devolved into exactly why I think this shit is dangerous:
-pics of tiny, barely-there bumps with proud exclamations of being 7 or 8 months along.
-Upset women defending why they looked so much bigger.
-women bragging about Eating less and gaining less than the recommended weight.
-upset women defending why they ate more and gained more than the recommended amount of weight.
-women listing all the physical activity they are currently doing and implying there is no need to slow down during pregnancy.
-upset women defending their required bedrest, hyperemisis, and other pregnancy complications that slowed them down.
-some women complaining the whole post wasn't psychologically healthy.
-upset women attacking those women for being lazy and having excuses.
-preggo catfights! RAAAAWR! HISS!
Ladies. Take a breath, but don't inhale too deeply if you're pregnant - you might gag!
In America, we've all gotten collectively bigger. The obesity epidemic - and frankly, not simply obesity but morbid obesity - has put us all on a graded curve. Unfortunately, it is true that more women are already quite overweight when they become pregnant and this, plus more weight gain, puts them at risk for pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and other complications. These risks and have all gone up, so now we have weight gain guidelines.
What's good about these guidelines, is they show women they don't need to eat for two and that too many laughed-off excuses to chow down on everything might upset you later when you have 30 extra pounds to lose instead of 10-15. Too much junk food and lazing about isn't conducive to a healthy pregnancy. There are real risks to consider. This much is true.
But, what's bad about these guidelines is they are not a catchall. Technically, I should've gained 25-35 pounds with each of my pregnancies. I gained 55-60. Three times. It's just what my body did. There is no way on Earth I was going to be that woman with the skinny arms and barely there bump. I was destined to have a pumpkin face, giant tits, and a basketball-sized lump in my shirt by 6 months.
However the two most important points to consider are: I was fairly fit and in a healthy weight range prior to pregnancy, and I maintained good health and prenatal care, being monitored by my OB/GYN the entire time. Too many American women go without such care, which also brings our collective risk factors up. When we reduce women to statistics and numbers without context, we start going down a fucked up path. Just like with numbers on the scale, or a specific bodyfat percentage or the "look at how skinny I am at X months pregnant" mentality. That's not a healthy way to swing the pendulum.
Before the baby is even born, the competition for Supermom begins. Who can do crossfit until they deliver in the squat rack? Did you keep up your 5 mile runs until the baby slid out naturally into your New Balance shoe? Were you doing bosu ball squats in between contractions?
Because if you didn't work it until the last minute of pregnancy, you're already behind. Tsk, tsk.
Look, ladies. Every pregnancy is different and every body is different. Some women are just naturally skinny, even during pregnancy. Some of us blow the fuck up like pufferfish (me). Some pregnancies are easier on a woman's body and she feels energetic enough to exercise all nine months. Some slow you down and even bring you to a full stop. The important thing is talking to your doctor and making sure your blood pressure, glucose and general health is on target. Being skinny isn't a benchmark for gestational success. The health of you and your baby is #1.
While being fit before, during and after pregnancy is a wonderful goal, it's not going to look the same for everyone or be attainable by all, and I'm not talking about a graded curve - I'm talking about real women. Listen to your body and your doctor, not women on the internet shaming you with their fears and insecurities. Besides, you want to save your energy, because once you have the baby, the real comment thread mommy wars begin!
...I'm so grateful those days are over for me. Stay strong pregnant mamas.