Indian women losing health over size-0 pregnancy

Thursday, July 18, 2013

“Psycho obsessive” is the phrase Juhu-based graphic designer Ria Mehta (name changed) uses to describe her attitude towards her weight while she was pregnant with her first child six years ago. Always weight-conscious, she couldn’t help but watch what she ate and drank even while carrying her baby. She says, “For the first five months, my biggest concern was the weight I’d pile up. I’d deliberately eat less.” The doctor’s warnings went unheard, and it was only when even at six months, her bump was hardly showing that panic struck. “My doctor scolded me like I was a little girl. He sat me down and explained the growth retardation my baby would suffer. That’s when it hit me that I was being unfair to my child,” says the 35-year-old. Fortunately, for Mehta, her baby girl turned out healthy. “I think that one glass of milk my mother-in-law insisted I drink every morning saw me through,” she says. However, cases like Mehta’s are far from rare, says obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Kiran Coelho. “It’s shocking how poorly nourished some women who consult me are, and it’s all because they want to remain slim. When mothers warn their teenage daughters, ’eat well or you’ll have problems later’, they are absolutely right,” she warns.

Why body fat is crucial
Dr Coelho says the problem goes back to when these women are adolescent girls, who, pressurised by societal norms, rely on a low-calorie diet to remain thin. Yo-yo dieting can cause a serious hormonal imbalance, upping your chances of infertility, explains Dr Coelho. “It’s important that you eat well to build up the nutrition store for your child-bearing future. These days, one in five girls suffers from polycystic ovarian syndrome (a hormonal disorder that affects the regularity of menstruation and eventually, their chance to conceive), for which lack of exercise and wrong nourishment with a diet rich in fast food and trans-fat, and stress are prime reasons,” she adds.

Poor nutrition leads to depletion of body food reserves and a low-cal diet leads to a drop in body fat which in turn, can lead to disturbed reproductive hormone production. The result? Irregular menstrual cycles, and anovulation, a condition where the body does not release oocyte or egg cell . “Around 14 to 17 per cent of body fat is required for initiation and maintenance of the menstrual cycle,” says gynaecologist Dr Duru Shah. Low fat levels lead to low oestrogen (hormone) production, and this can affect the quality of the egg or ovum released. She adds, “Micronutrient deficiency, including a Folic Acid deficiency, can lead to neural tube defects (spinal cord defects in the baby). Low levels of vitamin D is known to affect the development of foetal bones.”

Source: The Times of India (link opens in a new window)

Health Care