Eating Disorder and Pregnancy

Dealing with an eating disorder is something no one can truly understand unless they have been through it themself. Pregnancy may be viewed in the same way. No one can truly understand the physical and emotional demands a mother deals with until a woman experiences it herself. During pregnancy, the baby gets all its nutrients from the mother. While pregnant, the mother typically gains some weight. However, for those with eating disorders, this weight gain can be scary. 

The CDC recommends a certain amount of weight gain during pregnancy for women depending on their BMI. This website is a great resource to help you calculate your BMI and ensure you meet the recommended weight gain while pregnant. 

Potential Complications of Eating Disorders

For the mother: 

  • Heart issues
  • Risk of gestational diabetes
  • Increased depression 
  • Risk of premature birth 
  • Labor complications
  • Difficulty nursing 
  • Postpartum depression

For the baby: 

  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Respiratory distress 
  • Feeding difficulties
  • Higher risk of prenatal conditions

Specific eating disorders for the mom and risks for the baby: 

  • Anorexia nervosa (lack of eating): If the mother does not gain adequate weight, the baby is at a higher risk of having a low birth weight. Low birth weight can result in additional prenatal complications. 
  • Bulimia Nervosa (eating but throwing up/purging up the food after): Purging can lead to heart irregularities, chemical imbalances, dehydration, and chronic fatigue. Pregnancy heightens the risk of all these complications. 
  • Binge Eating Disorder (eating tons of food at one sitting): Binge eating often (not always)  leads to increased weight gain. This puts the mother at risk for high blood pressure and gestational diabetes, affecting the baby’s health.

“What if I am pregnant but deal with an eating disorder?”

The likelihood of becoming pregnant while dealing with an eating disorder is low but still can happen. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, you and your baby are at risk for several complications. You should immediately seek help to protect yourself and the baby. Numerous health providers can give you the medical attention you need, but only if you are completely honest about what you are dealing with. All the following tips are from the National Eating Disorder Association:

  • Talk to your prenatal doctor honestly about what you have been going through. This information is essential for them to best treat and care for you during this time. 
  • See a nutritionist who specializes in eating disorders. They will help develop a meal plan to fuel your body correctly and support your baby’s healthy growth. 
  • Attend individual counseling or support groups to help cope with disordered eating habits, fear around weight gain, body image, even parenting.

Dealing with an eating disorder is hard enough, but being pregnant AND dealing with one can be extremely scary. Do not think because you have an eating disorder that you failed as a mother. Pregnancy is emotionally, psychologically,  and physically demanding. Do not fear, there are so many resources for you to get help. All you have to do is reach out and speak up!

Schedule An Appointment

Liberty Women’s Clinic offers free pregnancy testing and ultrasound services. Contact us today to schedule your free pregnancy test. We are here for you!

*model is a stock photo

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