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Health: Great expectations

One in five women blames 'blooming' celebrity mums-to-be for applying extra pressure during their own pregnancies, according to a new survey. The experts explain how expectant mothers can ensure a healthy, low-stress pregnancy

By Jo Walker

If you've ever felt depressed by looking at photos of celes looking glamorous at all times, spare a thought for pregant women confronted with Yummy Mummies like Gwyneth Paltrow or Angelina Jolie.

If you've ever felt depressed by looking at photos of celes looking glamorous at all times, spare a thought for pregant women confronted with Yummy Mummies like Gwyneth Paltrow or Angelina Jolie.

Expectant mothers feel extra pressure when confronted by images of glowing celebrity mums-to-be, according to a new study.

A survey by baby charity Tommy's and Johnson's Baby for Pregnancy Health Month found that more than 20pc of women pinpoint "celebrities who bloom during pregnancy and look fantastic" as a reason for feeling worse. Almost half the women surveyed felt under more pressure to be perfect during their pregnancy.

Tommy's spokeswoman Charlotte Davis says pictures of stars like Victoria Beckham and Katie Holmes sporting super-slim post-baby bodies place unrealistic expectations on new mums.

"While we all know celebrities don't have the lives that we all have - and have personal trainers and a lot of support - many new mums might be struggling enough with being home with a newborn baby that they are now caring for and getting precious little sleep," Davis says.

"That might be enough pressure for the moment without worrying what their figure's like and when they're going to get back into shape and what their friends are going to think.

"Not everyone slips back into their size six jeans the next day. Life's not like that when you're caring for a newborn baby and you're desperately trying to adjust to this huge change."

Chartered health psychologist Dr Ros Bramwell says pressure on pregnant women to look slim and glamorous may be part of a wider social demand for women to always appear attractive.

"Pregnant women have become more visible in one way, which is good," Bramwell says. "I noticed that the woman doing the weather on ITV this morning was obviously pregnant, and you wouldn't have got that years ago. But she's still got to look glamorous."

So in the last few years, while increasingly high-profile women have had very public pregnancies - Jordan, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow - the pressure to have a baby and have it all has gone up as well.

"There's still that expectation, that strong expectation," Bramwell says. "It's presenting the image of this woman who's pregnant but she's still all these other things as well - still holding down a full-time job and being glamorous and successful and that's quite a big pressure."

For many women, this translates as being thin, or at least focussing more attention on body image. Putting on weight was placed as the top challenge of pregnancy in the survey, which also reported women complaining about other people's attitudes towards their bodies.

One woman said: "My mother-in-law called me a Teletubby in front of people. She also said it would be funny to see me struggle to lose the weight I'd gained."

Nutritional Therapy lecturer Ian Craig says restrictive diets inspired by celeb mums have no place in pregnancy.

"It is a problem and it's becoming a very big misconception," he says. "Because you've got these models who don't eat enough in the first place and they're genetically slim anyway, so when they do have their baby they will bounce back quickly.

"But you shouldn't be trying to do it - you should be listening to what your body needs. The danger of trying to cut weight back quickly is that having a baby growing inside of you is very dependent on nutrients. So all the nutrients you're taking in from food, you need to take higher quantities to grow this baby and by the time you actually do deliver, you're generally depleted of nutrients, because it's such a big undertaking.

"So in the period after giving birth, the diet is as important as ever."

Expectant mothers "need to be getting enough calories to satisfy the needs of themselves and the growing foetus," Craig says.

But there's no need to 'eat for two', he says: "If somebody is actually eating lots of fruit and veg, moderate amounts of protein and making sure they get their essential fats into their diets, then they should be getting satiated from eating.

"Having a baby inside of you will just naturally give you a slightly bigger appetite, but you shouldn't be thinking, I should eat double, like some people seem to do. Eat for satiation, that's important."

Craig recommends eating nutrient-rich foods and stocking up on essential fats like those from nuts, seeds and oily fish - mackerel, sardines, herrings. Pregnant women should also think about reducing the toxicity, he says. Choose wild over farmed fish, and look for organic, locally-produced or free range meat, eggs and dairy.

Take the pressure off

Body image is only one of the stresses leading up to your child's birth. Tommy's Charlotte Davis shares her tips for lowering the pressures of pregnancy:

- Find some pregnancy pals: "Talk to somebody, whether that's your friends, family, partner or midwife. Many women can feel really bound up in thinking, I've got to look good, I've got to be functioning brilliantly because after all pregnancy's a natural thing it's not an illness.

"Later in pregnancy a lot of women have their antenatal classes so they meet people who are at the same stage of pregnancy and might live locally so they can became your pregnancy pals - people who are going through the same thing as you."

- Give yourself a break: "People put a lot of pressure on themselves and we as society put that pressure on them as well. To be realistic, every pregnancy is different, every woman is different, so of course they're going to respond to their pregnancy in a different way.

"Just because someone else at work wants to work until 37 weeks and is going really well doesn't mean that that's what you have to say or what you have to do.

- Go with the flow: "It's a situation that you can't second guess - pregnancy is such a unique time that in a way you have to go with the flow. See how you feel and take things a step at a time. Don't force yourself to do things just because you think you should. And listen to your body - your body will tell you when you need to do things, or your body will tell you when you're tired."

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From Belfast Telegraph