An eating disorder is more than just an unhealthy diet; it is an unhealthy relationship with food. It usually begins for women in high school or young adulthood.
The most common eating disorders affecting women
- Anorexia: starvation to 15 percent or more below normal weight
- Compulsive overeating
- Bingeing: eating even when not hungry, usually resulting in an overweight condition
- Bulimia: bingeing and purging, or getting rid of food by vomiting, laxative use, restrictive diets, or excessive exercise
Impact on pregnancy
- Amenorrhea (not having periods, and therefore not ovulating) is common to anorexics, so in severe cases, women will not be able to conceive spontaneously.
- Anorexic women who are underweight and/or who do not gain adequate weight in pregnancy are at risk for having small and unhealthy babies.
- Mothers' bodies, particularly their bones, will suffer without the right nutrition.
- There is a risk of sudden death from chemical imbalance and heart problems.
- Women who are overweight and/or who gain too much weight in pregnancy are more at risk for developing complications such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and overgrown babies.
- Women with eating disorders are at risk of depression.
- Women who suffer from present or past eating disorders will often have more difficulty accepting common symptoms of pregnancy, such as:
- Bodily sensations: nausea, vomiting, fatigue, bloating
- Physical changes: weight gain, larger breasts and abdomen
- Changing body image and a preoccupation with weight
Health care in pregnancy
- It is important that you be open with your doctor or midwife about food, weight, and body image, so that you can get the support you need.
- An early counseling session with a nutritionist experienced in eating disorders is important to formulate a plan for healthy eating and weight gain during your pregnancy.
- Individual counseling or support programs such as those listed below may be helpful.
- Allowing yourself to be weighed provides your doctor or midwife with important information. You do not have to be told your weight.