Severe depression during pregnancy, premature birth, labour complications – these are all effects of eating disorders that can cause serious, potentially fatal, health issues for you and your baby. If you have an eating disorder and want a healthy pregnancy, it’s essential that you seek treatment. All Marie Stopes clinics and HCUs offer a comprehensive pregnancy care service.
In this article, we’ll be discussing the two most common eating disorders: anorexia and bulimia.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder that is characterised by restricting the quantity of food consumed on a daily basis, particularly foods that are high in fat and sugar. Individuals with anorexia eat far fewer calories needed to keep a healthy body weight. The normal daily calorie intake for a woman is 2000 kcal.
Causes: The exact cause of anorexia is unknown, but it is believed to stem from three factors: Biological, psychological and environmental – psychological causes are the most common.
Risks to the mother include: Poor circulation; low blood pressure; anemia; bone loss and heart conditions such as mitral valve prolapse, abnormal heart rhythms or heart failure
Risks for the baby include: Poor development, premature birth, low birth weight, respiratory distress, feeding difficulties, and other perinatal complications.
Treatment: The main goal is to establish a healthy weight, and this requires doctors, mental health professionals and dietitians to work together to address the physical and emotional triggers of the condition.
Unlike anorexia, individuals who suffer from this psychological condition don’t restrict the amount of food they consume. They eat abnormally large portions of food in a short time and then purge (vomit) out the food in an attempt to not gain any weight.
It’s also common for sufferers to use other methods to not gain weight such as laxatives, diuretics, excessive exercising, fasting or enemas after a period of bingeing.
Causes: Like anorexia, the exact cause of bulimia is unknown, but can include stressful transitions or life changes; history of abuse or trauma; negative body image; poor self-esteem; professions or activities that focus on appearance/performance
Risks to the mother: Higher rate of miscarriage; premature delivery; higher risk for developing diabetes during pregnancy; postpartum depression
Risks for the baby: Birth defects; respiratory problems; low birth weight
Treatment: There are several types of treatment, but psychotherapy and antidepressants seem to be the most effective. The most common antidepressant prescribed in Prozac, which is a type of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
If you have become pregnant and wish to terminate your pregnancy, all Marie Stopes clinics offer a safe abortion service administered by medical professionals.