Eating Disorders And Pregnancy (Symptoms, Treatment)
Eating disorders are known as psychological conditions and can change your healthy eating habits into unhealthy ones. Unfortunately, pregnancy can complicate these unhealthy habits. Hence, you need to know everything about eating disorders and pregnancy to reduce the risk of complications and give birth to a healthy baby.
In this article on Hipregnancy, we will cover the most common questions and points about eating disorders and pregnancy, including relationships, recommendations, treatment, etc. Don’t miss this article if you are a pregnant woman and have eating disorders.
What is an eating disorder?
An eating disorder is a condition in which you follow unhealthy eating habits, resulting in unhealthy relationships with food, body shape, or body weight.
You should know that if you have eating disorders and don’t take them seriously, you will put yourself at risk of serious health consequences, even death.
The following are the well-known types of eating disorders including;
- Anorexia nervosa
- Bulimia nervosa
- Binge eating disorder
- Rumination disorder
- Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder
According to studies, different factors can contribute to the above-mentioned eating disorders, like genetics, personality traits (including perfectionism, neuroticism, and impulsivity), levels of brain messaging chemicals (dopamine and serotonin), etc.
Now, you know what an eating disorder is and what causes it. Let’s continue to learn about the relationship between eating disorders and pregnancy, one of the most important topics each pregnant woman needs to be aware of.
Can girls with eating disorders get pregnant?
One of the most commonly asked questions about eating disorders and pregnancy is related to the effects of these disorders on female fertility or a woman’s ability to get pregnant. Let’s see whether eating disorders can reduce the chance of getting pregnant or not.
Overall, if you exercise excessively or reduce calories over a long time, you might face irregular or missed periods, which can reduce the chance of getting pregnant.
In addition, if you don’t have a healthy diet full of essential vitamins and minerals, you might face changes in your body functions, like conception. These factors can affect your fertility and can reduce the chance of getting pregnant. But the question is, “Do eating disorders lead to missed periods or misconception?”
Don’t be afraid if you have eating disorders and want to get pregnant, as it is just a myth that girls with eating disorders can’t get pregnant. The only point that women with eating disorders should consider is related to their body fat levels. In other words, their body fat level should reach 22% to conceive or maintain a pregnancy. To learn more, check the article titled diet before pregnancy.
Hipregnancy recommends you consult your doctor before trying for a baby and talk about your condition and eating disorder to get help; this allows you to control and treat your eating disorder and have a low-risk pregnancy, resulting in giving birth to a healthier baby.
Symptoms of eating disorders in pregnancy
Generally speaking, different types of eating disorders don’t have the same signs and symptoms, but the similarity between their signs is an extreme focus on issues related to food, eating, and weight. The following are the most common symptoms of eating disorders during pregnancy, including mental, behavioral, and physical signs;
- Intense fear of being fat
- Concern about eating in public
- Exercising too much
- Avoiding eating certain foods
- Cooking meals for others without eating
- Repeatedly weighing oneself
- Worrying about weight and body shape all the time
- Denying feeling hungry
- Developing strict habits around food
- Considerable weight loss
- Stomach cramps
- Dizziness (check Dizziness in pregnancy)
- Sleep irregularities
- Low thyroid levels, low blood cell counts, low hormone levels, and low potassium levels
- Thin hairs
- Dry skin and nails
- Poor wound healing
- Feeling cold all the time
- Weak immune system
- Muscle weakness
You should talk to your doctor or healthcare provider soon after realizing the above symptoms and get support to take care of your baby and reduce the risk of issues related to eating disorders and pregnancy.
Which eating disorder is most commonly observed in pregnancy?
According to studies and research, binge eating disorder is the most prevalent form of eating disorders in pregnant ladies. Let’s talk about binge eating disorder and pregnancy in detail.
Binge eating disorder is a condition in which you can’t control your eating habits and eat unusually large amounts of food in short periods. Pregnant ladies who have binge eating disorder eat a lot of food and, unfortunately, most of the time, choose unhealthy options or foods to avoid during pregnancy. This will increase the risk of pregnancy complications, like gestational diabetes.
In addition, they feel guilty or ashamed when thinking about their eating behavior. They might even eat large amounts of food quickly and in secret.
If you have one of the mentioned behaviors, you should take the relationship between eating disorders and pregnancy seriously and follow your doctor’s guidelines to support a healthy pregnancy. Otherwise, you will face pregnancy complications, discussed in the following part.
Also Read: can you eat deviled eggs while pregnant
Eating disorders and pregnancy complications
If you don’t control and manage your eating disorders, you will face pregnancy complications. Here is a list of complications associated with eating disorders during gestation;
- Low birth weight
- Gestational diabetes
- Premature labor
- Complications during labor
- Delayed fetal growth
- Respiratory problems
Often, those who don’t manage their eating disorders during pregnancy will experience stressful pregnancy and can’t enjoy this sweet period of their life. To prevent all the above-mentioned complications, pregnant women with eating disorders must manage their disorder and put it under control till the end of pregnancy and even after that.
Treatment of eating disorders and pregnancy (before, during, and after)
As mentioned earlier in the previous part, you must go doctor to manage your eating disorders’ symptoms, eating behaviors, and weight change. But here are suggested guidelines for women to control and treat their eating disorders, including;
- Make a preconception appointment with your doctor or healthcare professional.
- Add healthy food options to your diet.
- Avoid purging.
- Achieve and also maintain a healthy weight.
- Consume healthy fats to increase the chance of conception.
- Add prenatal vitamins into your diet, if needed.
- Individual or group therapy can help you manage your symptoms and behaviors.
- First, visit your doctor and inform your provider that you have an eating disorder.
- Consume pregnancy-safe foods and achieve a healthy weight. (For more on this, check what can pregnant woman eat)
- Avoid purging.
- A dietitian with expertise in eating disorders can help you manage your diet and add essential nutrients to your meal plans.
- Continue individual or group therapy to improve your mental and physical health.
- Contact your doctor after pregnancy, as you may face postpartum depression as a result of eating disorders.
- Manage your weight and follow a healthy diet to take care of your breastfeeding baby.
Pregnancy is a motivator for those women struggling with eating disorders to overcome their unhealthy eating behaviors. All pregnant ladies should be aware of the relationship between eating disorders and pregnancy to prevent any risks associated with these disorders.
In this article on Hipregnancy, we covered all the important aspects of having an eating disorder in pregnancy and wish the mentioned points to help you manage your disorders and enjoy your pregnancy journey.
If you know any other points about eating disorder while pregnant, do share them with us and other moms-to-be via comment.