Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight, often leading to starvation or over-exercising. Since pregnant mothers need more nutrition, anorexia during pregnancy can lead to several complications for themselves and the baby and may even be life-threatening.
People with anorexia tend to feel fatter than they really are. Most times, their weight is even below the average BMI. Still, they perceive themselves to be overweight and therefore cut down on their calories further.
How does anorexia and low nutrition during pregnancy affect the baby?
Pregnant women with anorexia deprive themselves and the baby of the nourishment they need, leading to complications like miscarriage, premature delivery, low birth weight, and anaemia. Complications resulting from poor nutrition and anorexia during pregnancy go on to affect the baby, with some suffering stunted growth and malnutrituon.
According to a study, Pregnant women with anorexia are at greater risk of stillbirth, underweight babies, and preterm births.
Pregnant women with anorexia nervosa had 1.32 times the risk of preterm birth, 1.69 the risk of an underweight baby, and almost two times the risk of stillbirth compared to women without the eating disorder.
Anorexia is more common among women than men.
What are the guidelines for managing anorexia during pregnancy?
Anorexia nervosa isn't new, and there have been many studies over the years. But unlike mood disorders, highly limited guidance is available for eating disorders among pregnant women.
And that's quite unfortunate because, like depression, inadequate nutrition can hurt the unborn child as much as the mother. And this has led to countless stillbirths and preterm.
Guidelines for anorexia, such as the Eating Disorder Inventory and reliance on body mass index, are ineffective when used inpregnant women.
Thankfully, the researchers have developed a multidisciplinary approach to managing anorexia during pregnancy. This approach involves specialists in mental health, obstetric (care of women during pregnancy), medical, and nutritional care. The recommendations were published in The Lancet Psychiatry.
Addressing the challenge from the root
According to the researchers, anorexia nervosa affects pregnancy outcomes from many angles, including:
- Low-calorie intake, causing a lack of energy
- Nutritional and vitamin deficiencies that also affect the embryo
- Low body mass
- Placenta malfunction
When anorexia goes untreated during pregnancy, it puts the woman at an increased risk of postpartum depression and anxiety. It's a downward spiral.
If you're a pregnant woman with anorexia and all you've read gives you goosebumps, that's understandable. You care about your unborn child and wouldn't want anything bad happening to them. Let me help you.
As an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse with specialization in eating disorders and other mental disorders, I can help.
Also, ensure you speak with your pediatrician, dietician, and MD.
You want your baby to begin their life journey in perfect health. Help them by getting help for yourself today.