Consult with a specialist eating disorders dietitian before, or as soon you know you are pregnant. With their help, you can create a healthy eating plan to support your own physical and emotional wellbeing during pregnancy, as well as the development of your growing baby. After the arrival of your baby you may wish to continue to see the dietitian for help and advice on returning to a weight you are comfortable with through healthy means.
Eating disorders in pregnancy
It is important that there is an improvement in the level of management over your eating disorder prior to trying for a baby. This will include nutrition and problem behaviours. This is because being of a low weight and engaging in behaviours to compensate for the food you eat can compromise your fertility
A healthy weight promotes ovulation. Many women with eating disorders may experience a disruption in their hormone production, and periods may not be present. If this is the case they are less likely to ovulate and release a mature egg, which would enable them to become pregnant. Women with Bulimia Nervosa can be of normal weight , but can still have severe nutritional deficiencies that can affect their fertility. Research has shown that once a healthy dietary intake has been resumed, problem behaviours have reduced and weight improved, women with eating disorders can expect to resume their menstrual cycle.
Fulfilling your role as a mother by supporting your growing baby during pregnancy and once your baby has arrived requires great physical and emotional strength, so it is important that you are at your best possible health.
Although this is happy news for most women, for those experiencing eating disorders the confirmation of being pregnant can create an uncomfortable mix of emotions. Pregnancy may have a positive or negative impact on a woman's eating disorder and this may be difficult to predict at first. Your eating disorder may exacerbate the fears that most women have anyway; surrounding weight gain, changes to body shape and disruptions to life routines. Some women find that they develop better control over their eating disorder symptoms during pregnancy, which is motivated by the desire to have healthy babies and be healthy themselves in order to provide the best care for them. However, some women continue to have difficulties with poor/distorted body image and are unable to distinguish being pregnant from being "overweight". There is also a common fear that the weight gain during pregnancy will be become out of control.
There are medications that are safe to take when breastfeeding.
- poor nutrition
- cardiac irregularities
- gestational diabetes
- premature birth
- labour complications
- difficulties nursing
- delayed development
- low birth weight for age
- respiratory distress
- other perinatal complications
- feeding difficulties
- Ensure a better well being both emotionally and physically prior to conceiving.
- Inform your obstetrician of your eating disorder and know what additional help is available.
- Consider working with a dietitian who has specialist experience of eating disorders to ensure your diet and weight in maintained throughout the pregnancy.
- Consider engaging in help available from local mental health and eating disorder services to help you anticipate and manage the challenged of pregnancy and parenting.
- Please make sure that your mental health and physical needs are met.
Express your wishes regarding your preferred choice of health worker. You can use your appointments with them to express your hopes and fears about your changing body.
Need help right now?
- NHS 111
Further services & resources:
- Hampshire Lanterns are a group of mums who have experienced mental health problems during pregnancy or after child birth. They aim to support each other via the internet and group meetings so that no mum should have to suffer alone.
- Recovery College in Hampshire & Dorset
- Eating disorders leaflet
- Eating disorders and pregnancy
- Beat Eating Disorders
- Local Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Team (Hamphire tel: 01962 89 7780) (Dorset tel: 01202 584 329)
- Baby Buddy is the multi-award winning free app that guides you through pregnancy, birth, parenting and beyond. You can explore the we.b version of Baby Buddy or download the full version of the app for free on the App Store and Google Play. There is a lot of information including videos about your physical and mental health.