Eating Disorders During Pregnancy
Both pregnancy and parenting can require good health and a great deal of physical and emotional strength. It is during pregnancy that a baby will depend on their mother to feed and nourish them. To provide a developing baby with the nourishment they need, a mother will be required to gain weight during their pregnancy.
While this may seem like a small concern to many, for those who battle with an eating disorder during pregnancy, gaining weight can be extremely frightening. To help reduce the complications when dealing with an eating disorder during pregnancy doctors recommend that the issues are addressed and monitored ideally before conception as well as through the duration of the pregnancy.
Complications That Can Occur with Eating Disorders and Pregnancy
If left untreated, eating disorders can cause severe complications during pregnancy and delivery for both the mother and baby. Some of the complications that can occur include:
- Preterm labor
- Low birth weight
- Fetal death
- Higher risk of cesarean delivery
- Delayed growth
- Respiratory complications
- Gestational diabetes
- Labor complications
- Postpartum depression
- Difficulty breastfeeding
- Poor nutrition
- Cardiac problems
Medications like laxatives used for purging in conditions such as Bulimia Nervosa can pass through the placenta and cause fetal abnormalities and even fetal death when regularly consumed. Binge Eating Disorder during pregnancy can also lead to severe complications as too much weight gain can lead to major conditions such as hypertension and gestational diabetes.
What Should You Do If You Become Pregnant and Have an Eating Disorder?
Although seeking binge eating treatment or other eating disorder treatment is best done before conception, it is possible to have a healthy pregnancy even if the mother is currently in eating disorder recovery. If an eating disorder is present when pregnant the mother should:
- Be honest and upfront with their care provider – An expectant mother should always discuss with her doctor all of her eating disorder history as well as any current concerns and feelings throughout the pregnancy. It is important to realize that healthcare providers need the facts to be able to provide proper treatment and they are not there to judge but to ensure the health of both mother and child.
- Schedule extra appointments if necessary – If close monitoring is necessary an expectant should discuss the possibility of more follow-ups with their doctor and always be sure to call for an appointment if they feel they are struggling in any way.
- Retain the services of a nutritionist – It is important to work with a nutritionist throughout the pregnancy to help with healthy eating and meal planning to make sure that weight gain is met, and the proper nutrients are consumed.
- Join a support group – Seek out a support group or set up some individual counseling sessions to help cope with the emotional issues that may cause the eating disorder and other issues that may arise during pregnancy.
- Allow the doctor to monitor weight – Monitoring weight during pregnancy is an important way to track the health of both the mother and the developing baby. If being weighed is difficult for an expectant mother, they can discuss it with the healthcare facility ways to avoid seeing the number and request to not be told their weight unless it is an issue. Most healthcare facilities are happy to tailor a visit to fit their patient’s needs and make them as comfortable and relaxed as possible.
- Discuss any exercise plans – Before embarking on a fitness routine, make sure to clear it with the doctor. While exercising is fine during pregnancies there may be limitations and restrictions.
- Talk with a lactation consultant – Find out what it takes to maintain a healthy milk supply and provide a baby with the nutrition they need after birth and through the start of their life.
Maintain a Healthy Body Image During and After Your Pregnancy
Maintaining a healthy body image is essential to avoid an eating disorder relapse after pregnancy and help a new mother cope with their eating disorder during their pregnancy as well as postpartum. Some tips for ensuring a healthy body image during pregnancy include:
- Know pregnancy triggers – Unfortunately, pregnancy can include a lot of measuring, comparing, and sometimes even the feeling of loss of control. It is important to maintain a support system to help get through these triggers.
- Try not to shut down – It is vital to remember that caregivers are there to help and an expectant mother should not be worried about asking for help when they need it.
- Celebrate the miracle occurring – Help break the cycle of body misperception by appreciating the amazing work that the body is performing which is creating life. By learning to appreciate their bodies and what they can do, expectant and new mothers may be able to improve their body image.
If a loved one suffers from binge eating disorder and pregnancy or other risks due to an eating disorder it is vital to seek out binge eating treatment as soon as possible to limit pregnancy complications and ensure the health of both mother and baby.