The pregnant body is a wonderful thing. It can turn a microscopic embryo into a person complete with a heart, a brain and an immune system pretty much on autopilot.
But there’s one area of pregnancy where a woman’s body is not to be trusted. Ever. When it comes to appetite, cravings and weight gain ALERT, ALERT, SYSTEM FAILURE!
After all, what would a pregnant woman’s body, with a mere few million years of evolution under her belt, know about the optimal composition for a pregnant woman’s body?
That goes double if the pregnant body in question happens to belong to a celebrity like Kim Kardashian.
Fortunately, expert help is at hand. Australia’s leading journal of maternal wellbeing — I speak of course, of Woman’s Day — has put together a panel of experts, variously known as Kim’s ‘friends’ and anonymous sources, to discuss Kim’s ‘Out of Control’ thirty-kilo weight gain.
‘“Kim is desperate to stop gaining, but she can’t seem to get it under control,” says an insider. “She cries every day and she’s scared of how big she’ll get.”’
And she should be scared because to some attentive observers, Kim’s hideously out-proportioned pregnant body is indistinguishable from that of a killer whale.
Not to be outdone, Australia’s other leading obstetrics publication, NW magazine, is there to assist mother and baby through this ‘nightmare’.
Meanwhile, In Touch magazine has resorted to the latest in medical imaging technology — restaurant cam — to diagnose the source of the problem. In their professional opinion, Kim has gone, ‘From Portion Control to Pigging Out’.
It may be hard for some people to muster any sympathy for a Kardashian. She rose to fame via a sex tape and has stayed there by, among other things, comparing the smell of her sisters’ vaginas on her reality TV show.
But not only is it indefensible to treat anyone with this degree of viciousness, the issue extends well beyond the fat shaming of a Hollywood B-lister. It’s symptomatic of mixing our cultural hatred of body fat — particularly women’s body fat — with the belief that pregnant women’s bodies are public property.
At a time when women are already confronted with the changes and lack of control over their bodies, the belief that limiting weight gain during pregnancy is a virtuous and worthy goal just adds to their anxiety.
The brutality in linking pregnant women’s identity and self-worth to their weight gain is not only soul-destroying, it can also lead to alarming and dangerous behaviours.
A recent study published in the European Eating Disorders Review, for example, found that one quarter of pregnant women were, ‘highly concerned about their weight and shape,’ and 7.5 per cent of women met the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder.
Similarly the Journal of American Dietetic Association published research in 2003 finding that 21 per cent of pregnant women endorsed weight-restrictive behaviours such as deliberately trying not to gain weight, and not eating before visiting their doctors.
Like Kim Kardashian, I gained 30kgs during my pregnancy. That was more than 50 per cent of my original body weight. At the time I agonised over how far I was deviating from the socially acceptable levels of weight gain but, like so much about pregnancy, it was beyond my conscious control.
Fortunately I had an obstetrician who didn’t have much time for this month’s experts and their paranoia about weight gain in pregnancy. She trusted that my body would gain as much weight as it needed to. So long as I was being healthy, she saw no need to worry.
I know what you’re thinking: what would she know? She just has a medical degree, years of experience with pregnant women and delivering actual babies. To the best of my knowledge, the woman has never published an exclusive celebrity scoop in her life. Not one.
But it turns out she was right. My daughter is now a healthy and vibrant three year old and while my body was certainly changed by my pregnancy it is not too different from how it was beforehand.
The lesson here is that just like everything else about baby-making, women’s bodies know what they’re doing. Our job is to eat well and stay as active as we can and leave the rest of it up the real experts: our bodies.
Kasey Edwards is the best-selling author of 30-Something and The Clock is Ticking: What Happens When You Can No Longer Ignore The Baby Question. www.kaseyedwards.com