Having an eating disorder can impact every area of your life. For the pregnant woman who has an eating disorder, the disorder is even more serious, as an eating disorder can create some severe risks for both the pregnant woman and for her baby. One of the most serious side-effects of having an eating disorder during pregnancy is that it increases your chances of having a miscarriage.
One of the ways that having an eating disorder will increase your chances of a miscarriage comes from one of the symptoms of the eating disorder, namely being underweight. One study suggests that women who are underweight and pregnant are 70% more likely to experience a miscarriage. Women who were underweight before they conceived were able to reduce their risk of miscarriage in the first trimester simply by taking prenatal vitamins that contain folate and iron, and by eating several servings of fresh fruits and vegetables each day.
In addition to an increased chance of having a miscarriage, having an eating disorder while pregnant can create certain other risks. These can include premature labor or premature birth, stillbirth, respiratory problems for your baby, preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension, an increased risk of cesarean section, jaundice, placental separation, having a low-birthweight baby, complications with labor, delay of fetal growth, gestational diabetes, an increased risk of birth defects, and depression during pregnancy or post-partum depression.
There are other concerns, as well, for a woman with an eating disorder who becomes pregnant. Sometimes, the increase in weight that is a normal and important part of pregnancy can create guilt and anxiety which leads to more and more problems. Some studies suggest that women who have an eating disorder also tend to pass the disorder on to their children, or even wind up underfeeding or overfeeding their children.
Whether the eating disorder is anorexia, bulimia, or compulsive overeating, eating disorders affect not just the pregnant woman but her baby as well. If you or someone you know is pregnant and has an eating disorder, they should seek help immediately. Your health care provider or mental health professional may be able to help determine a treatment plan that is effective for everyone involved.