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Eating Disorders and Pregnancy

Aug 18, 2007
Eating disorders are a problem for all, but especially vexing when a woman is also pregnant. Women who suffer from an eating disorder should try, if possible, to reduce its effects before becoming pregnant. That is not possible in many cases, as the underlying causes can be deeply-rooted and difficult to change.

Pregnancy can demand a good deal from a woman, both in her eating habits and her general psychological state. Her hormones are significantly changed, which can sometimes help to overcome a disorder, but in many cases may not have an effect on the woman's eating problems.

A woman must eat properly in order to bring a healthy baby to full term. The body makes demands to store additional nutrients, including vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates. A woman must put on weight not just for her baby, but also for other parts of her body that must be well-maintained in order to assure a good pregnancy.

If a woman does not eat properly and set her body for the tasks ahead, the mother can become severely malnourished. This contributes not only to the woman's health problems, but also to those of the baby. Dangers associated with an unhealthy pregnancy include severe mood swings, tiredness leading to exhaustion, and immune deficiencies, which can lead to contracting diseases (colds and flu to more serious illnesses).

The fetus is also susceptible if the mother is not properly nourished. Poor nutrition on the part of the mother can often lead to problems with the baby, such as low birth weight, premature birth, poor bone formation and even brain abnormalities. Lack of folic acid during gestation can lead to spina bifida, while lack of other B vitamins can lead to several types of birth defects.

While most women understand that gaining weight is a normal part of pregnancy, women with eating disorders may find this aspect of pregnancy frightening. Most women can expect to gain an average of 25-35 pounds during the course of pregnancy.

Some women may be able to deal weight gain and accept it as a natural part of pregnancy, but others may plunge into a deep depression. For a woman with an underlying eating disorder, the resultant weight gain can be a cause of stress. Pregnancy can be a challenging period for all women, but it can be an especially difficult time for women who are suffering from an eating disorder.

Each eating disorder has its own specific set of risks associated with pregnancy. Women who suffer from anorexia nervosa during pregnancy may not gain sufficient weight during pregnancy. These women also have a much higher risk of having a baby with low birth weight, and all the related health complications that tend to accompany low birth weight babies. Women with bulimia nervosa may suffer from their own specific set of complications. The binge and purge cycle of bulimia can lead chemical imbalances, heart problems, and dehydration.

Women with binge eating disorder have trouble maintaining a healthy weight. They may become overweight or even severely obese. Women with this disorder may be more prone to developing gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and have a greater chance of giving birth to babies who are high in weight.

Women who become pregnancy while battling an eating disorder are prone to depression, high blood pressure, dehydration, nutritional deficiencies, heart irregularities and other cardiac problems, complications with labor and nursing, and post-partum depression.
About the Author
Scott Meyers is a staff writer for Its Entirely Natural, a resource for helping you achieve a naturally healthy body, mind, and spirit. You may contact our writers through the web site. Follow this link for more information on Eating Disorders.
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