Eating disorders

If you have an eating disorder (or have had one in the past), you may find it hard when your body gets bigger as your baby grows.

Woman looking thoughtful.

Some women find their eating disorder gets worse when they’re pregnant, but for other women their symptoms improve. Some women find their eating disorder gets worse after giving birth, when they’re trying to lose the extra weight. The two main eating disorders are anorexia and bulimia.

What are the risks?

Anorexia in pregnancy increases your risk of miscarriage, having a caesarean section and having a premature or small baby.

Bulimia in pregnancy is linked to postnatal depression, miscarriage and premature birth.

What should I do?

Tell your midwife or doctor about your eating disorder, and tell your health visitor after you give birth.

While you are pregnant you need to eat about 2,000 calories a day, rising to 2,200 in the last three months of pregnancy.

Your healthcare team should talk to you about making sure you are eating a nutritious diet during pregnancy, and they may refer you to a dietitian to help with this.

If you suffer from bulimia, be aware of the symptoms of postnatal depression. You may be at higher risk of it and knowing the symptoms means you can get help sooner if it happens.

What's the treatment?

You may be offered a psychological therapy (talking treatment) to help you manage issues surrounding food, weight gain, body image and becoming a new mother.

You should have extra monitoring during pregnancy to make sure your baby is healthy.

The midwife, a dietitian or nutritionist will talk to you about eating well for pregnancy.

Depending on how severe your eating disorder is, you may also be referred to a specialist.

If you are already taking medication for bulimia, your healthcare team should discuss gradually stopping the medication.

More information and support

B-EAT Helpline: 0845 634 1414. Eating disorders charity providing information, support, local groups and an online chatroom.

MIND Helpline: 0300 123 3393.  Mental health charity providing information, support, local groups and an online chatroom.

Read more here about having a healthy diet in pregnancy

Other resources

Read more

Sources

  1. NHS Choices [accessed 8/5/2015] Complications of anorexiahttp://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Anorexia-nervosa/Pages/Complications.aspx
  2. Morgan, J (2000) Risk of Postnatal Depression, Miscarriage, and Preterm Birth in Bulimia Nervosa: Retrospective Controlled Study, Psychosomatic Medicine:May/June 2006 - Volume 68 - Issue 3 - pp 487-492
  3. Macdonald S, Magill-Cuerden J (2012) Mayes’ midwifery, 14th edition. London: Balliere Tindall, p945
  4.  Macdonald S, Magill-Cuerden J (2012) Mayes’ midwifery, 14th edition. London: Balliere Tindall, p945
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Last reviewed on February 1st, 2015. Next review date February 1st, 2018.

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