What Do I Need to Know About Pregnancy and Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders do not mix well with pregnancy. First, a woman may have difficulties conceiving because an eating disorder influences the hormones in her body. If she does manage to become pregnant, she may have trouble carrying the child long enough for it to survive.

For these reasons, doctors would like for a woman with an eating disorder to be well on her way to recovery before pregnancy occurs. All of the factors of an eating disorder that affect her health are multiplied as dangers to a fetus. These include limited calories, constant exercise, and stress. A pregnant woman with an eating disorder may also develop more potentially dangerous problems such as heart or kidney problems.

Although most women with an eating disorder consider the baby first, this is not how a pregnancy works. The baby receives nutrients from the mother’s body first. Then the mother’s body uses what’s left. If enough vitamins and minerals are not available during pregnancy, the mother’s bones thin, her hair becomes brittle, and her teeth weaken. Some of these problems are later irreversible.

Studies show that the fetus of a pregnant woman with an eating disorder has a difficult future.

The odds of a premature birth are great. The fetus usually grows slower and arrives weaker.

Once born, the infant of a mother who had an eating disorder during pregnancy has more trouble learning to talk, developing social skills, and maturing intellectually. The infant also has a greater risk of problems in childhood. The child has a higher risk of diabetes, liver impairment, and blood disorders which might result in a heart attack.

A mother who becomes pregnant without fully recovering from an eating disorder must also know that the pregnancy could make the eating disorder worse. After all, every healthy pregnancy requires weight gain. A pregnant woman looks physically fatter than one who isn’t. The appearance of pregnancy may throw a woman with an eating disorder back into the habits from which she has just broken free.

All of these aspects of pregnancy and eating disorders should be considered by women desiring a baby. Then, it would be a good idea if she chose both a doctor and a counselor to see her through the pregnancy.