This project is now complete.
Why do we need this research?
Eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating, can severely affect the wellbeing of women during pregnancy. Some women with eating disorders can find that their symptoms get better during pregnancy, but then get worse after they have given birth. What’s more, eating disorders can lead to health problems for the baby during and after pregnancy, including premature birth, low birthweight, and difficulty with breastfeeding.
We need to learn more about how eating disorders affect pregnant women, so we can ensure that women get the support they need to have a health pregnancy and baby.
What happened in this project?
Our researchers analysed data from a large group of pregnant women to understand how common different types of eating disorders are. The found that just over 15% of women had had an eating disorder at some point in their lives, with anorexia being the most common. Nearly 1.5%, or about 1 in 70 women, had an eating disorder while they were pregnant.
Other mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and a history of self-harm or suicide attempts, were more common among pregnant women with eating disorders. Eating disorders were often left undiagnosed by doctors and midwives during antenatal care, which suggests many women aren’t being offered the support they might need.
What difference will this project make?
This research has revealed how often pregnant women are affected by eating disorders. Raising awareness of eating disorders during pregnancy will help healthcare professionals to provide the best support possible for these women, to improve wellbeing for them and their babies.
Thanks for your interest in our research
Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. We can keep you updated on ways you can support our work. If you would like to join our fight against baby loss and premature birth, click here.
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A recently published article, co-authored by Professor Catherine Williamson from Tommy’s Research Centre at King’s College London, suggests that certain pregnancy complications can indicate future health issues for women.
Tommy’s has received a grant from the UK Government’s Department for Health and Social Care to support the costs of its PregnancyHub information and support services throughout the summer, due to rising demand in the wake of coronavirus.
Although recruitment to some clinical trials had to be paused when coronavirus hit the UK, scientists at Tommy’s Research Centres across the UK are still hard at work, supporting women and families in our specialist clinics and sharing their latest studies with academic journals.
The day before Mother’s Day, and two days before the UK officially went into coronavirus lockdown, Zara Dawson found out she was having a miscarriage. Her third consecutive miscarriage in less than a year, and fourth consecutive loss, after losing her second son Jesse in 2018 to termination for medical reasons.