Women with Inadequate Body Image Gain Excessive Weight during Pregnancy

Dec 23, 2008
Overweight women who tend to perceive their body incorrectly are more likely to gain excessive weight during pregnancy, the study found.

The study conducted by Sharon Herring, MD, MPH, at Temple University revealed that the way women perceive their bodies may actually affect their weight during pregnancy. Overweight women, who thought they weighted less, were seven times more likely to gain more weight during pregnancy. Also normal weight women, who believed that they weighted more than they actually did, were twice as likely to have excessive weight during pregnancy.

As much as 1,500 normal weight and overweight women took part in the research Project Viva. There were 13 percent of normal weight women, who perceived themselves as having greater weight than they really were, while 14 percent of overweight women tended to underestimate their weight. Other women in the group had the adequate perception of their weight.

Women with excessive weight, who thought they're lighter, were also younger, less educated, single and non-white. They also reported to consume less vegetables and fruits than normal weight women who had correct perception of their weight. The normal weight women who tended to overestimate their weight did not differ much from normal weight women with adequate perception of their weight status.

The authors of the study said that one of the possible explanations of inadequate perception of weight is high frequency of overweight people in US. These women may not realize that they fall into overweight category and as a result do not follow the pregnancy weight gain recommendations.

It is advised that women gain 25-35 pounds during pregnancy if they are normal weight, while overweight women are restricted to gain no more than 15-25 pounds. Excessive weight poses some potential problems for pregnant woman and her baby, increasing the risks of gestational diabetes, backaches, larger fetus and the risk of cesarean delivery.