National experts have suggested that if a woman is obese, she should gain far less weight when pregnant than previously thought: just 11 to 20 pounds.

But one local doctor says even that is far too much. Dr. Raul Artal, chairman of the obstetrics and gynecology department at St. Louis University School of Medicine, says an obese woman who gets knocked up shouldn't gain so much as an ounce -- and then adds that pregnancy, not an unhealthy affection for fast food and the La-Z-Boy, is "the main contributor to the obesity epidemic in this country."

That astounding claim appears in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reporter Michelle Munz interviews Artal for a story in the newspaper's Health section.
As the P-D article details, physicians concerned about the affect of low birth weight began encouraging women to gain 20 to 25 pounds during pregnancy. Underweight women were encouraged to gain as much as 40 pounds.

But doctors like Artal think the pendulum has swung way too far. These days, nearly half of Missouri births are to woman who were overweight even before they got preggers. When they gain even more weight, they can be at risk for gestational diabetes -- and fat babies, who suffer their own health problems.

Still, we can't help but be skeptical about Artal's claim that pregnancy is the "main" contributor to the so-called obesity epidemic. If that's the case, why do we see so many overweight men 'round these parts? (It's not just our eyes fooling us -- per the Kaiser Family Foundation, more men than women are overweight or obese.) Plus, keep in mind that aforementioned statistic: Half of Missouri women these days are fat before they get pregnant.

Is it a good idea to refrain from overeating even while pregnant? Totally. But is pregnancy the main contributor to an "epidemic" that could be caused by everything from the hormones in our food to our sedentary lifestyles to the abundance of Doritos in our cupboards? Sorry, Dr. Artal, but we're far from convinced.