Is pregorexia for real?

Answers from Roger W. Harms, M.D.

The term "pregorexia" refers to a woman's drive to control pregnancy weight gain through extreme dieting and exercise.

Although health care providers don't uniformly recognize the term, the behavior associated with pregorexia is real and could harm a baby's health. Still, pregorexia is exceedingly rare. Far more women gain too much, rather than too little, weight during pregnancy.

No matter what the scale says, however, some women do excessively worry about their weight gain and experience body image issues during pregnancy. The risk of pregorexia might be higher for women who have a history of eating disorders and those who have a weak social support system.

Specific warning signs of pregorexia might include:

  • Talking about the pregnancy as if it weren't real
  • Heavily focusing on calorie counts
  • Eating alone or skipping meals
  • Exercising excessively

If you're pregnant and struggling with your body image, share your concerns with your health care provider.

Your health care provider can help you determine an appropriate weight gain during pregnancy, based on your pre-pregnancy weight and body mass index. He or she can also explain how to use healthy lifestyle habits and proper nutrition to control weight gain during pregnancy.

It might be helpful to consult a registered dietitian or a mental health provider as well.

Jul. 18, 2012