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Pregorexia is a growing phenomenon

May 22, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
For most women, "eating for two" is one of the great pleasures of being pregnant! But some moms-to-be have a very different reaction: they're afraid to put on the pounds! It's become known as "pregorexia." And doctors are seeing an upswing of it, especially here in image-obsessed Southern California."I had such a difficult time feeding myself, I couldn't think about feeding my babies," said Maggie Baumann.

Maggie Baumann is a Laguna Niguel mother of two beautiful daughters.

"It is really hard to live with because I didn't do the right thing for my babies," said Baumann.

Maggie struggled with anorexia and a compulsion to over exercise.

"If we went to church my kids and my husband would go in the car and I would run. If we were going to a family party my kids and husband would go in the car and I would run 12 miles to the party," said Baumann.

Maggie's disorder spiraled out of control when she became pregnant with her second daughter Whitney.

"Our neighbors didn't even know I was pregnant until I was 9 months pregnant. Because I would just hide it. It was like I had to deny I even had a baby in me," said Baumann.

Maggie wasn't gaining enough weight. Her doctor ordered her to stop exercising, but she couldn't.

"I almost miscarried Whitney. When the bleeding stopped I started exercising right away," said Baumann.

Maggie gained just 13 pounds during that pregnancy. The intense media focus "baby bumps" and "body after baby" can fuel pregorexia.

"Most people do not look like that when they get pregnant. They get swollen and they waddle," said Baumann.

"More and more women are trying to aspire to that," said Dr. Lesley Williams.

Dr. Williams treats women with eating disorders at disorders at Remuda Ranch in Arizona.

"It's like this goal of within a few days of giving birth you're supposed to be back to the way you were before you ever had the baby," said Dr. Williams.

She says pregnancy can be a vulnerable time.

"All of a sudden now there's a lot of focus on your body. Where before people didn't typically comment, now people are saying oh how you're gaining weight, people are touching you," said Dr. Williams.

Women with pregorexia are more likely to miscarry. They're more likely to need a C-section. Their babies are more likely to be underweight and have neurological damage.

Both of Maggie's daughters have ADD. Whitney had seizures as an infant.

"He gives me this pamphlet and one of the causes of epilepsy is poor nutrition in the womb. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, look what I did to my baby,'" said Baumann.

Still, it took several years, and a near-death experience before Maggie got help.

"He said you're this close to having a heart attack and having your organs failing and getting into a treatment center tomorrow wasn't soon enough," said Baumann.

Maggie checked in to Remuda Ranch.

"They didn't allow me to exercise, I wasn't even allowed to walk there. That's how bad my exercise addiction was," said Baumann.

Part of Maggie's treatment was expressing her fears through art.

"I was a runner and I would be bleeding in my socks," said Baumann.

"Patients a lot of times here at Remuda will write their burdens on rocks. You see a lot of things written on here like anger and shame," said Jena Savage, chief development officer at Remuda Ranch.

Rock climbing, and other obstacle and challenge courses help patients at Remuda Ranch learn to cope.

"It gives them a moment to say 'Oh I can do this in my life. I can ask for help.' So it really can draw a lot of good things," said Savage.

Maggie has a good family life now. Both of her daughters are healthy, happy and free from the body image issues that plagued her.

"They are my life. If something had happened to them I think God was protecting me and protecting my babies," said Baumann.

Maggie went back to school to get her degree in counseling psychology. She's now running several support groups for women with eating disorders.

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