How Anorexia Or Bulimia Can Affect Pregnancy

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The combination of an eating disorder and pregnancy is a dangerous one for both the mother and the child. Eating disorders can have a great deal of effects on the mother’s body. Some of the effects may make it difficult or even impossible to become pregnant, while others will allow a pregnancy to happen, but can have drastic consequences for the mother and child.

For an Anorexic or Bulimic that is suffering severely from the eating disorder or that has had it for a number of years, their body may have become affected to the point where they are no longer menstruating or ovulating, which will both obviously affect the body’s ability to become pregnant.

For those that do manage to become pregnant and that continue to suffer from the eating disorder, there are a number of complications that can occur such as:

Miscarriage or stillbirth

Trouble breathing or low-energy level due to nutrition that is being taken by the fetus and away from the mother

Increased risk of the mother developing depression and suicidal ideation during the pregnancy due to the weight being gained and emotional feelings of weight/body image being out of control

Increased bone loss due to calcium that is being taken by the fetus

Lack of appropriate nutrition for the fetus due to compensatory behaviors used by mother, which can cause effects on the development of key organs and systems

Going into premature labor and increased likelihood of a c-section needing to be performed

Increased risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia both of which can be serious medical conditions that can affect the mother’s health and risk of additional complications, including survival, for the chld

Low birth weight for the child, which can lead to low AGPAR scores and development delays

Higher risk of birth defects for the child

Respiratory illnesses in the child after birth

Additional medical risks to the mother, including kidney, liver or heart problems due to the added strain on the body to support the fetus

Increase risk of the mother developing post-partum depression

There are several things that a person with an eating disorder can do to have a healthy pregnancy including:

be in counseling/treatment for the eating disorder to deal with the eating disorder before becoming pregnant

be back to a normal body weight and eating a healthy diet including the use of prenatal vitamins

stop compensatory behaviors, such as binging, purging, excessive exercise or laxative use before pregnancy occurs

consult with a doctor for regular checkups and make sure to let your OB/GYN doctor know about the eating disorder at your first visit if he/she is not aware of it already

consult with a nutritionist to create healthy eating habits and diets that are well balanced and nutritious for both you and the baby

be in counseling to deal with physical and emotional changes that will occur during and after the pregnancy

Continue healthy eating after pregnancy in order to have the ability to breastfeed, which can have benefits for both the mother and the child

Ask your partner and friends/family to help you by watching for signs that your unhealthy eating or compensatory behaviors are returning or that you are suffering from post-partum depression after the birth

Join a support group for those that are pregnant and have an eating disorder in order to have support and share experiences with others

A woman with an eating disorder that wishes to have a baby needs to understand the effects that having the eating disorder during pregnancy can have on both her and the child. She may find it extremely hard to become pregnant and if she does manage to become pregnant, may be unable to sustain the pregnancy or may face severe medical complications and dangers for both herself and the child.

Therefore, it is very important to seek the help of medical and mental health professionals prior to becoming pregnant in order to receive treatment for the eating disorder and to reduce possible complications that she or the baby will face during the pregnancy or in the future.


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