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PERSONAL HEALTH : On Self-Image, Pregnancy Weight

January 18, 1994|KATHLEEN DOHENY

If a woman feels unattractive before her pregnancy, she is less likely to gain enough weight to ensure a healthy baby, a University of Michigan dietitian and researcher has found.

Viktoria L. Shayna surveyed 172 pregnant women, ages 14-35, during their third trimester, most of them pregnant for the first time. They answered questions about body image before and during pregnancy, and supplied information on eating and exercise habits, their heights and weights.

Women who were very slender before pregnancy also tended to gain too little, Shayna found. Women sensitive to others' comments about their changing profiles also tended not to gain the 20 to 35 pounds generally recommended for normal-weight women during pregnancy.

The older the woman, the less likely these comments were to bother her, said Shayna, who presented her research at an American Dietetic Assn. meeting.

Inadequate weight gain increases the risk of having a low-birth-weight baby, who in turn is at higher risk for health problems.

"Women need to be reassured that pregnancy weight does not have to be considered unattractive and can be lost after pregnancy," Shayna said. Her advice: "Eat when you feel hungry and in a (healthful) way."

What's also needed, she said, is more research--including an examination of what effect a husband's attitudes might have on weight gain: "His role might be quite important, but we don't know that for a fact."

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