Eating disorders in pregnancy

Make sure you tell your midwife and GP if you have an eating disorder or have had one in the past. This means they can offer you the right support during and after pregnancy.

What is an eating disorder?

An eating disorder is when you use food in a way that isn’t healthy to help you cope with your emotions. You may eat too much, or not enough, or you may worry all the time about your weight or how you look.  This can take over your life and make you ill. Friends and family may be concerned about you. The most common types of eating disorders are:

  • anorexia
  • bulimia
  • binge eating disorder (BED)
  • other specified feeding or eating disorder (OFSED). This is diagnosed when your symptoms don’t quite fit the other types of eating disorder.

Many people may not know they have an eating disorder. The symptoms can include:

  • worrying about your weight and body shape a lot of the time
  • avoiding social events when food is involved
  • not eating much
  • making yourself sick or taking laxatives
  • exercising a lot
  • having very strict habits or routines around food
  • changes in your mood.

Although it can be hard to ask for help, speak to your GP or midwife. You can take a partner, family member or friend with you if it helps.

For some people, pregnancy gives them the chance to recover because they immerse themselves in taking care of their body and baby. Support from your healthcare team can help to make sure you stay on the right track after the birth.

For others, the changes that happen to your body and your life when you get pregnant can cause old feelings to come back to the surface. It might even bring up new feelings to do with wanting to control your life and the way you look, through your relationship with food.

How can eating disorders affect pregnancy?

Having an eating disorder can increase the chance of: 

If you have an eating disorder, you may also be at higher risk of getting postnatal depression.

What should I do?

Tell your midwife or doctor about your eating disorder, and your health visitor when you meet them.

As well as talking about any physical health worries, tell your midwife or doctor if you are taking any medication for mental health problems as soon as you know you are pregnant. 

Some types of medication have risks for your baby if you take them when you are pregnant or breastfeeding. The doctor will be able to discuss this with you and advise a different drug if needed. 

Do not stop taking medication for mental health problems before talking to your doctor. This can lead to withdrawal symptoms. It could also make your symptoms come back or get worse.

You should have a named professional (usually your GP or midwife) to support you during your pregnancy and after you give birth.

They will:

  • Prepare you for the changes that will happen to your body
  • Check in with you often, to see how you are getting on
  • Offer you extra check-ups during your pregnancy
  • Talk to you about getting enough nutrients to keep you and your baby healthy.

How are eating disorders treated during pregnancy?

If you need treatment during your pregnancy, you should be offered the same therapies as other people with eating disorders.

Depending on the type of eating disorder, treatment may include:

  • guided self-help, where you carry out exercises from a book with support from a therapist
  • talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

After your baby is born

Your GP, midwife and health visitor will continue to support you after your baby arrives. They will talk to you about staying well and feeding your baby.

Have a support network in place

You can’t plan for everything when it comes to being a new parent. But you may find it helpful to talk to family and friends about what they can do to help you stay well after your baby is born. This may help you feel more prepared and in control. 

Make sure your closest family and friends know about your condition and how it affects you. You could talk to them about:

  • the symptoms you have had in the past
  • what medication you take, if any
  • warning signs they should look out for
  • who to contact if they are worried about you.

Friends and family can also help you with practical things, such as:

  • cooking healthy meals for you
  • taking the baby for a walk so you can get some sleep
  • doing household chores for you, such as cleaning or laundry
  • spending time with the baby while you take a break – even if it’s just to have a bath or shower.

This may help reduce any extra stress and let you focus on staying well. 

You can use this Wellbeing Plan to think about how to be ready for the birth of your baby.

More information and support

BEAT Eating disorders provides support and information to people affected by an eating disorder. 

MIND has information about eating disorders.

The organisation Eating Disorders and Pregnancy has information on managing eating disorder symptoms, weight change and healthy eating in pregnancy. 

NICE (2020) Antenatal and postnatal mental health: clinical management and service guidance. Available at: (Accessed February 2024) (Page last reviewed 11/02/2020)

NICE (2020) Eating disorders: recognition and treatment: NICE guideline 69. Available at: (Accessed February 2024) (Page last reviewed 16/12/2020)

NHS (2024) Overview – Eating disorders. Available at: (Accessed February 2024) (Page last reviewed: 23/01/2024. Next review due: 23/01/2027)

Maternal Mental Health Alliance (2022) Eating disorders and the perinatal period. Available at: (Accessed February 2024) (Page last reviewed: 01/03/2022)

NICE (2019) Eating disorders. Available at: (Accessed February 2024) (Page last reviewed 07/2019) (2022) How to manage pregnancy when you have an eating disorder. Available at: (Accessed February 2024) (Page last reviewed: 28/02/2022)

Review dates
Reviewed: 20 February 2024
Next review: 20 February 2027