Eating disorders during pregnancy are increasingly common. I spoke to a Beat representative, a nutritionist, a mother with an eating disorder and a body image specialist about what this means for both mum and baby and wrote it up for Motherland…
Leni White was diagnosed with anorexia at 21, eight years after she first started to experience symptoms. Aged 32, she attempted to conceive her first child but discovered she was infertile. “It wasn’t 100 per cent due to my eating disorder,” she says, “but I’m sure it contributed”. She managed to conceive by IVF and went on to give birth to a healthy baby boy.
A study commissioned by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) found that a large proportion of women meet the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder during pregnancy, with nearly a quarter of women experiencing ‘high weight and shape concerns or eating disorder behaviours at clinical level’.
Where once anorexia was thought to prevent pregnancy, it seems that increasingly, women are managing to conceive in spite of having the disorder. Bridget Benelam, senior nutrition scientist for the British Nutrition Foundation, explains that “having a very low level of body fat as a woman can lead to irregular periods and prevent ovulation”. However, she says that if women with a BMI of less than 19 can increase their bodyweight, their fertility might improve.
You can read the full article here.