Pregnant with An Eating Disorder

I will never forget my first time treating a pregnant client who suffered from anorexia nervosa. She wanted this pregnancy so badly and as a treatment team member, I knew constant collaboration with her and the other treatment team members was going to be crucial. It was tough. I worried. It was especially tough for the client. It’s no secret that a woman’s body changes during pregnancy!

I will never forget the moment when she showed me a picture of her healthy baby girl. I felt a state of relief enter my body. I felt warmth in my heart. It was a moment in my profession I will always remember. 

We live in a culture that tells us, people of all ages and genders, how to look – as if we are born as blank painting canvases and can just easily, without harm, transform into whatever body is “trendy” at the time.   

According to American Pregnancy Association, eating disorders affect more than 7,000 pregnant women every year. I would imagine that way more than 7,000 woman even without eating disorders suffer from body image dissatisfaction that pregnancy can bring, due to the cultural messages that are everywhere. 

According to the National Eating Disorders Association, disordered eating during pregnancy can lead to poor nutrition status, dehydration, cardiac abnormalities, gestational diabetes, premature birth, labor complications, difficulties nursing, depression while pregnant and postpartum depression. Risks for the baby may include poor development, premature birth, low birth weight, respiratory distress, and feeding difficulties. 

Below are 5 tips if you are suffering from an eating disorder during pregnancy.

1. Consistently meet with your multidisciplinary treatment team every week. With any eating disorder treatment, consistency is key. When one is pregnant, more frequent sessions may be necessary. Be sure you have at least a therapist and a dietitian to support you through this process.

2. Inform your prenatal health provider about your eating disorder. Sometimes, disclosure is not always the easiest thing to do but neither is recovery! We cannot always seek the easy way out. You are not on this journey alone. Your provider’s awareness of your eating disorder can make each prenatal visit less stressful. Your treatment team can educate the provider about eating disorders, if he or she is not well versed in eating disorders treatment.  

3. Ask your dietitian to educate the prenatal health provider about blind weights. There is no question that weight gain occurs during pregnancy; you’re giving space for a new life to grow in your body! However, this does not change the frightening aspect of weight gain for some individuals. This is a time where having a record of weight will be important information for your dietitian and provider for the health of you and your baby.

4. Ask your dietitian and prenatal health provider about supplements. It is common for prenatal vitamins to be recommended for all, and especially in those suffering from eating disorders, calcium and vitamin D supplementation may be beneficial during pregnancy and lactation for the development of the baby’s skeletal system. 

5. Ask your treatment team about support groups that may be effective for you. Connecting with individuals who have been through what you are going through, or are currently walking the same path, can feel comforting and reassuring. Not to say your story is not unique; because it is. However, encouragement from others is valuable on the road of recovery. 

Your treatment team wants what is best for your physical and emotional health. They are there to support you through your pregnancy and beyond!

If you are suffering from an eating disorder, reach out today at (954) 641-2210.