Everyone knows that maintaining a healthy
weight reduces risks of heart disease, high blood cholesterol,
hypertension, and Type 2 diabetes. Tools such as the BMI (Body Mass Index)
and the Canada Food Guide
are available to help you watch your weight, find your healthy body
weight, and discover which foods your body needs for a balanced diet.
That being said, when we apply these calculations to little people, we
quickly realize that they don’t apply or are inaccurate.
Many variables make it difficult for a
little person to know what their healthy body weight is or how many
calories they need to eat to meet their needs:
- Bone Mass :
It is common knowledge that the BMI is not useful in the case of very
athletic people because muscle does not weigh the same as bone or fat.
We do know that little people with certain types of dwarfism, like
achondroplasia, have heavier bones than normal for their height. It is
therefore impossible to rely on the BMI if they want to know whether
they are underweight, of healthy weight, overweight, or obese.
- Height :
it is normal for a child with dwarfism to eat less than a child of
regular height of the same age. There is no norm, however, indicating
that a 10-year-old little person has to eat as much as a 3-year-old or
a 6-year-old child of regular height.
- Physical Activity :
an adult little person working in an office and doing sports from time
to time needs about on 800 to 1200 calories per day. Some people think,
however, that the extra effort spent trying to function normally in a
world for big people (walking twice as fast, taking twice as many
steps, getting on and off of benches) burns more calories.
A little person needs to learn to know their
own body and recognize when they are hungry, full, or excessively
tired. In this way they become familiar with how much they will need to
eat in order to avoid health problems from being overweight. A healthy,
balanced diet – foods low in fat and sugar, but high in fiber – is
strongly recommended. When little people are watching what and how much
they are eating, it is a good idea to use their own common sense
instead of the generally accepted norms. A nutritionist can be helpful
in finding and maintaining a healthy weight.
Sports are a great way to burn more energy.
Specialists in the domain recommend that everyone commit to exercising
a minimum of three times a week for thirty minutes. Little people are
certainly no exception to this rule.
But sports can be stressful for little
people. Having been discouraged often from doing physical activity,
they sometimes feel excluded or incapable. They thus often stop doing
sports and give up the accompanying physical and psychological benefits.
Sports are beneficial to and very
satisfying for everyone, whether they are athletic or not. Little
people should commit to regular, moderate exercise like walking,
cycling, and swimming.
In the majority of cases, children with
dwarfism can take physical education classes without any particular
restrictions. Some precautions are necessary, however, when playing
contact sports such as hockey, football, soccer, etc.
Since dwarfism often affects the bones, the
genitals are usually untouched. Little people can therefore have a
normal and satisfying sex life. Problems in this area come more from a
negative attitude than from functional limitations.
Accepting and learning to love a body
questioned not only by other people but also especially by themselves
is no mean task for little people. They often have a poor self-image,
which is sometimes compensated for by excessive sexual behavior
(aggressive flirting to prove their seductive power and excessive macho
behavior). Many little people withdraw into themselves, which then
represses all sexual desire.
Little people need to know, however, that
they have the same right to love as everyone else. Looking for a
partner certainly has some difficulties, but isn’t this the case for
everyone? People choose their partners according to their tastes,
interests, values, and needs. Little people are free to share their
preferences with another little person or a person of regular height.
Couples can be very happy in either situation.
When little people start to desire
children, they ask themselves 1001 questions about pregnancy and
parenting. Will I have an epidural? Will I need a cesarean? Or will I
be able to give birth naturally? Will I have trouble walking? Will my
back hurt? Will my baby have enough space in my belly? And how do we
raise a normal-sized child when at least one of us is a little person?
First of all, rest assured that a
woman with dwarfism can carry her pregnancy to term,
usually without any particular problems. Instead, it is surprising how
well nature makes things! For example, if the mother’s pelvis is too
narrow for the baby to grow sideways, the stomach will grow forwards.
That being said, certain precautions should
be taken to ensure a healthy pregnancy:
- Like all women, the future mother will be
monitored at the hospital. As there is no specific care for pregnant
women with dwarfism, the obstetrician/ gynecologist will regularly
measure the infant and the mother's pelvis to ensure a problem-free
pregnancy and birth.
- Even if they are not systematically
offered to mothers with dwarfism, C-sections and epidurals are
possibilities, but it will up to the OB/GYN to assess the situation and
- The future mother with dwarfism will need
to leave work earlier, since her condition will probably make walking
There is no universal answer for all types
of dwarfism. Every pregnancy is different, and with regular check-ups,
the answers will come with the approaching due date.
On the other hand, future parents faced with dwarfism sometimes have a
difficult choice to make. Since two little people often risk having a
child with dwarfism (see the section Genetics
under Dwarfism), parents can spend a long time asking themselves
whether or not they want to have a child. Parents (little people or
not) who already have a child with dwarfism may also hesitate before
having a second child.
An exact diagnosis of the child can take up
to two years, and some people find the medical steps involved with
dwarfism too heavy.
Parents can have a hard time imagining themselves looking after a child
with dwarfism. Here again, there is not only one answer to these
questions. Sometimes we choose to have a child because we think life
can be beautiful and enriching even with a physical congenital defect,
and sometimes we choose not to have a child because we think life would
be too painful with such functional limitations and health problems.
When a couple is confronted with these questions, it is useful to meet
other people who have gone through the same process. AQPPT is here to
help prospective parents and put them in touch with little people who