With society’s view on beauty today, so many women and girls are developing eating disorders to be what society views as beautiful. This is dangerous. When you are expecting a baby, however, the dangers of an eating disorder are even more complicated. Finding out you are pregnant brings on a whole different set of emotions. Among a variety of things, your growing belly will probably be a concern. While it is normal to worry about how big you are going to get, going as far as limiting what you are eating, not eating at all, or literally eating for two are things you should not ever attempt.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder in which one obsessively diets or starves themself. Between 85 and 95 percent of anorexics are women. Women should typically gain 25-35 pounds during pregnancy for average weight women and even more for women who are underweight. Not eating or depriving your unborn child of nutrients can be extremely harmful to your baby’s growth. Most obviously, when you are not giving your baby the important nutrients it needs, it could end up having a low birth weight. Low birth weight can be caused by preterm labor, a huge risk for mothers suffering from anorexia. Low birth weight babies are at a higher risk for certain medical issues such as heart defects, brain bleeds, and respiratory stress syndrome. Also, unborn babies need essential nutrients, like folic acid, to help establish the brain and spinal columns. Malnutrition in fetus’ have been linked to lower IQ’s and developmental delays later on in their life. In addition to poor health after being born, anorexic women are more likely to have a miscarriage, which happens before the 20th week of pregnancy, or a stillborn child, which occurs after the 20th week. Even after recovering from anorexia, unfortunately, mother’s still have a higher risk of having a miscarriage.
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder in which one eats a large amount of food in a short amount of time, then “purges” or expels it either through vomiting, with the use of laxatives, or with excessive exercise. If you suffer from bulimia nervosa you have a higher chance of miscarriage and stillbirth just like with anorexia nervosa. You also have a higher chance of delivering your baby early and your baby having a low birth weight and the complications that come with that as well. In addition to the effects bulimia can have on your baby, it also can affect you. Studies have shown that women who suffer from bulimia nervosa have a significantly higher chance of developing postpartum depression. It is also harder to get pregnant if you suffer from bulimia. While this necessarily is not a bad thing, this could be stressful for women who have overcome bulimia in hopes of starting a family.
Binge Eating Disorder
The most overlooked condition when it comes to eating disorders, however, is one that does not make you lose weight. Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder in which one eats a large amount of food in a short amount of time, and does not purge it. This does not have to be a disorder that was had prior to becoming pregnant. Many women become pregnant and think that they literally have to eat for two. This could mean as many as 4000 calories a day, almost doubling what the average person should be eating in a balanced diet. How much you should be eating while pregnant depends on your BMI before you are pregnant. Your doctor can advise you on how much to gain, and should let you know if you are gaining too much. Gaining too much weight while pregnant can add to the aches and pains that come with being pregnant such as back pain and leg pain, as well as add to heartburn and discomfort. Excessive weight gain can also lead to you developing Gestational Diabetes. While this type of diabetes goes away after pregnancy, you are still passing on the risk of your baby developing type 2 diabetes, or being obese later on in his or her lifetime.
While an eating disorder is not typically something somebody gives to themselves or chooses to have, it is extremely dangerous to your health and your unborn baby’s health. If you are unexpectedly pregnant or looking to get pregnant and you have an eating disorder you should get the help you and your baby deserve right away. Not only is getting to a healthy weight a great idea for your unborn baby, it could help save your life too.
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