Anorexia and Pregnancy
Anorexia is an acute eating disorder wherein people tend to keep their body weight as low as possible. To control body weight, people suffering from anorexia restrict the amount of food that they eat, exercise excessively, and even go to the extent of vomiting to reduce body weight. Pregnant women who are anorexic are underweight and do not put on much weight during pregnancy. As per the American Pregnancy Association, eating disorders can affect the mother and the baby before, during, and after the birth of the child.
Anorexia can adversely effect your chances of conceiving. Anorexia can affect a woman’s fertility and often results in absence of periods or irregular periods. Reduced intake of calories, psychological stress, and excessive exercising can cause an absence of menstruation.
Complications Caused by Anorexia During Pregnancy
Anorexia during pregnancy can lead to a number of complications. When a woman is pregnant, the growing baby receives all its nutrition from the woman’s womb. If the amount of carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and proteins in the woman’s body are low, the body will drain its reserves to meet the growth needs of the baby. This can lead to severe malnourishment of the woman, and can also cause depression and other health-related complications.
Some of the complications caused by anorexia during pregnancy are listed below:
- Premature birth
- Miscarriage or still birth
- Low birth weight
- Arrested fetal development
- Increased chances of caesarian birth
- High blood pressure in pregnant women
- Complications during labor
- Gestational diabetes
Pregnant women who deprive themselves of nourishing food are also depriving the baby of the vital nutrients they require for proper development of brain, nerves, bones, and organs. Once the baby is born, anorexia can also interfere with breast feeding. Many anorexic women take laxative and other over-the-counter pills. These laxatives and pills can adversely affect the fetal development.
Reproductive Recommendations for Anorexic Women
Anorexic women who want to conceive or are pregnant can deliver healthy babies by observing the following guidelines:
Before Pregnancy: When an anorexic woman is trying to conceive, she should:
- Try to achieve a healthy body weight
- Avoid any kind of purging
- Meet up with a nutritionist and adopt a healthy pregnancy diet
- Seek counselling for anorexic disorder and if possible, opt for a group therapy.
During Pregnancy: During pregnancy, the woman suffering from anorexia should observe the following recommendations:
- Try to achieve the desired weight and avoid purging
- Schedule a prenatal appointment with a doctor and inform the provider about the eating disorder
- Make it a point to eat healthy and nutritious meals as advised by the nutritionist
After Pregnancy: After giving birth to a baby, the woman suffering from anorexia should:
- Continue to seek counselling for her eating disorder, as there is a high risk for post-partum depression which can aggravate due to the eating disorder
- Keep in regular touch with a nutritionist to stay health and manage body weight so that the baby also stays healthy
- Women suffering from anorexia need to be highly motivated to ‘eat for the baby’
- Numerous reports suggest that they have a high tendency of restricting their diet and resorting to extreme weight-control measures in order to quickly lose the weight gained during pregnancy.
“Birth outcomes and pregnancy complications in women with a history of anorexia nervosa,” by C Ekéus, et al. Published in Volume 113, Issue 8 of the BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, accessed on 29 March 2015. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2006.01012.x