Disordered Eating and Pregnancy

This post was made at the request of a friend who is a recovered bulimic and fell back into a purging and restriction cycle following the discovery of her pregnancy. Thankfully she is through the worst of it now. I wanted to write this not only for her, as I think she is a wonderful human being who deserves a healthy family but to educate myself and most important educate some potential mothers to be!

The term often used to describe an eating disorder on pregnancy is “pregnorexia”, obviously combining the words “pregnant” and “anorexia”. Most articles will describe pregnorexia as a condition in which the mother to be restricts to control weight gain during pregnancy. As with any disordered eating though the reasons can vary massively as can the behaviours exhibited, my friend was purging for instance, so I feel this title isn’t strictly accurate.

Maybe I have been blind to it as it isn’t really an issue that I have to worry about due to my gender’s disposition to fall pregnant, but I am surprised I haven’t really heard more of pregnant women with eating disorders in the Facebook recovery groups and such as I would have thought it would have been a much more discussed topic given the physical and hormonal changes a women goes through during this period not to mention the mental stress brought on by having to prepare to bring a new human being into the world and care for the little soul.

To the best of my knowledge unless strict restriction/dieting isn’t involved then it’s not really something understood by the medicinal world either. As stated earlier my friend made herself sick rather than restricting yet the doctors failed to recognise this as an ED behaviour and diagnosed her with hyperemesis gravidarum (which for those of us who don’t speak Latin means bad sickness in pregnancy).

ED during pregnancy can also be really dangerous for mother and child. If you have seen the film ‘To the Bone’ then you will have seen the immediate danger that anorexia presents to the unborn child but even if the child makes it through pregnancy it may be born with growth retardation or under developed which can cause the baby issues throughout it’s entire life. It can also extremely dangerous for Mum. During pregnancy the baby takes priority over the mother, if there is not enough calories for both then the baby will take the majority. This can mean that the physical side effects of ED can be exaggerated as the mother has even less to work with than normal!

If you are a Mum to be and have stumbled across this article because you are struggling with eating or any other aspect of your mental health during your pregnancy, please be honest with maternity nurse, GP or any other medical professional you see. EDs can be a difficult battle to have but admitting there is an issue is the first major victory. Because this is a fairly unspoken of topic there can sometimes be a breakdown in communication between your hospital and GP or any other care givers who may be responsible for you. This can mean that you do not get the treatment you require. Do not settle for this! Make sure yourself and agreeable care giver hammer home the point that you require help for an eating disorder. There are also many dedicated eating disorder charities around the globe such as B-Eat or NEDA who will have seen this before and will know how best to help you.

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