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Pregnancy and Eating Disorders

Because of the dangers you present to yourself and your baby, you should not attempt to get pregnant until you are well on your way to recovery, or recovered. You should be able to talk to your doctor comfortably about your history of an Eating Disorder. Women with Anorexia, Bulimia and Compulsive Overeating who get pregnant can be at a higher risk for miscarriage, high-risk pregnancy and complications, and birth defects including those that can cause the mom or the baby's death.

Eating for Two...

Having an Eating Disorder can increase your chances of never being able to get pregnant, and the longer you have an Eating Disorder, the higher the risk that you will face some type of fertility problems. Should you be on the road to recovery, or recovered, and are having a difficult time getting pregnancy, talk to your doctor about the possibility of fertility testing.

If you do become pregnant there is nothing more important than what you will put into your body. Being pregnant can be a drain on physical well-being, thus the reason for good pre-natal care and overall health. It is important that Mom eat a well-balanced meal, stay hydrated with plenty of fluids, take her pre-natal vitamins and have a relatively stress-free environment.

There are many risks associated with having an Eating Disorder, including malnutrition, electrolyte imbalances (that can lead to kidney failure, heart attack and death), vitamin deficiencies and dehydration -- all of which can be extremely dangerous to a developing fetus and can lead to its death. The baby that grows inside you needs to be provided with enough nutrition and a safe environment to flourish.

Because of both the physical and emotional health of women with Eating Disorders, those who become pregnant are at an increased risk of of some of the following complications: Risks to the baby can be delayed fetal-growth, low birth-weight babies, birth defects, fetal abnormality such as a cleft palate or cleft lip, jaundice, respiratory distress of the baby immediately after birth, higher death possibility to the baby in the last trimester of pregnancy or within 1 month after birth (perinatal mortality), and low Apgar scores -- The Apgar score is a reading of the baby's skin color, heart rate, movement, breathing and reflexes, each rated from 0 - poor, to 2 - good. The reading is taken 1 and 5 minutes after birth. Other risks to mom and the baby include miscarriage, Gestational Diabetes, Preeclampsia (toxemia), low amniotic fluid, placental separation, complications during labor (such as a breech birth), incompetent cervix and/or spontaneous abortion, and increased risk to Mom of damage to the kidneys and heart.

It is also important after the birth of your new baby to make sure you continue to eat right and get the proper nutrition. You will have to keep your strength up to handle all the changes in your life that this new found bundle-of-joy will bring, and to handle any postpartum depression you may suffer from. If you are breastfeeding, eating right becomes even more important because you will pass along any vitamin deficiencies to the baby, or will not produce enough milk to feed it.

The emotional and physical health of Mom-to-be is important to consider. You should think about some of the following questions:

  1. What effect will this have on your ability to recover?

  2. How comfortable will you feel with the changes in your body during and after the pregnancy, and will this set your recovery back or make your Eating Disorder worse?

  3. Are you in a healthy enough place to know that you will take care of your body and the baby during and after pregnancy?

  4. How will you handle the stress of adding a new member to your family?

  5. Are you in a healthy environment now, and will it be healthy for your baby?

  6. Are you willing to face the possibility that if you don't recover from a relapse, or at all, that you could potentionally "pass this on" to your child?

  7. Postpartum Depression can be mild to severe... how will you handle it after your baby is born?

  8. Are you in a well enough state-of-mind to recognize that you might need help and will you be able to reach out for if you need to?

  9. As much as babies are warm, sweet and cute to cuddle, are you prepared for the responsibilities also involved in being a parent?

  10. Why are you having a baby?

These are all important questions to ask yourself when you are deciding to have a baby and have had a history of an Eating Disorder. This is not a decision to take lightly or to go into because you think this will be the motivation you need to recover. A baby will not just add joy and laughter to your life... they also add a lot of stress and responsibility. This is not something you should do because of a need to be loved by someone. A baby will need your love and protection, and will need you to be strong and healthy. You don't need a baby... a baby will need you.

You should also see the list of
Physical Dangers Associated with Having An Eating Disorder

Link: ANRED's page on Pregnancy

Link: Anorexia-Induced Infertility


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