By KATE NOWLAN
Published: July 18, 2013
Since “Baby Watch 2013” began for both the royal heir and the heir to reality television fame, few escaped the virtually ubiquitous coverage of Kate Middleton’s and Kim Kardashian’s pregnancies. From the first baby bump sightings, every detail of these high profile pregnancies has been documented, dissected, and made public for the world to judge. This has triggered a near fanatical obsession with the women’s changing figures.
While the world waits with bated breath for the arrival of the Prince or Princess of Cambridge, let’s explore how society’s obsession with Baby Watch 2013 may relate to research on eating disorders and future clinical implications.
The relentless fixation on expectant mothers’ baby bump sizes highlights our culture’s increasing focus on the “right way” to be pregnant. Kim Kardashian and her prenatal weight gain were intensely scrutinized while Kate Middleton was commended for her minimalist baby bump. This sends the message that naturally occurring changes are not acceptable during pregnancy; whereas, barely showing is laudable. We already know that pregnancy is a high-risk time for women with histories of eating disorders. Moreover, research conducted by UNC and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health further reveals that pregnancy is a risk period for the onset of binge eating disorder (BED)—even in women who did not have BED before pregnancy. Body image pressures for pregnant women may further exacerbate this risk.
Despite this increased risk for disordered eating, providers do not always know how to best screen for eating disorders during prenatal care. This is especially problematic given that eating disorders are more common than previously thought during pregnancy and disordered eating persists in many women with histories of eating disorders during the postpartum period (Knoph et al., 2013). While the exact prevalence of eating disorders in pregnancy and during the postpartum period is unknown, we should never assume that pregnancy is an antidote to eating disorders. Providers require education and training to improve detection and support for women with current and past eating disorders before, during, and after pregnancy.
Pregnancy is a critical time for both mother and baby. Of paramount importance is a focus on the health and well-being of both. Pregnancy is best viewed as an important developmental milestone in any woman’s life, not as a fashion show, a beauty pageant, or a competition.
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