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Insect-thin pregnant women in Japan

What's a common response by a Japanese woman upon discovering she's pregnant? Cut out the rice and begin skipping meals. In contrast to Western moms who seem to be getting fatter, in Japan too many seem to be growing a lot slimmer.

low birth weight infants in japan

Ignoring sound fetal nutrition due to worries over the cosmetic toll of weight gain during pregnancy, women in Japan not only now have the highest incidence of low-birth-weight babies in the developed world, but they are setting up their poorly-nourished newborns for higher rates of infant mortality and later serious health problems like diabetes, heart disease, and neurological malformations.

Why is this happening? As a group, Japanese women harbor an extreme fixation on remaining thin. Almost one in four Japanese women in their twenties is already underweight with a body mass index of less than 18.5. When pregnancy occurs, this fixation doesn't always abate, with fetal health then taking a back seat to ongoing beauty concerns.

Nearly 10% of all Japanese newborns are now classified as showing abnormally low birth weight as defined by World Health Organization standards, almost double from the rate of thirty years ago.

"Many women, especially in cities in Japan, are now espousing very much the kind of body image that you associate with the magazine model: the stick-insect-thin model," said Mark Hanson, chairman of the International Society for Developmental Origins of Health and Disease and a collaborator at the U.K.'s University of Southampton.

It's not unusual for a pregnant woman to remain so slender that her pregnancy goes almost unnoticed, with close friends wondering "where are you hiding the baby?" One woman wore a sign announcing "I'm pregnant" to encourage unsuspecting passengers on the subway to offer up a seat.

Japanese obstetricians, reluctant to advise women to put on a healthy amount of weight, seem to be part of the problem. "What's happening in Japan is a shocking phenomenon," said Hideoki Fukuoka, a biologist at Waseda University in Tokyo. "You hear of doctors yelling at expectant mothers and telling them to transfer to another hospital if they can't manage their weight."

APSG Comment: Obstetricians may feel this way, but that sentiment is hardly shared by most plastic surgeons marketing Mommy Makeovers, a series of operations that has become very big business in both East and West. While undergoing tummy tuck, breast lift, and liposuction may not be much fun, it's far preferable to risking the health a developing child.

Full article here.


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Low birth weight infants in dieting Japanese pregnant women