Do you suffer from Anorexia nervosa? Is it safe if you are pregnant? What do you do? Read on for more details on the condition and its effects on pregnancy!
Anorexia Nervosa and Pregnancy – Is it Safe for the Baby?
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder wherein a person starves or does excessive dieting in an extremely obsessive manner so as to avoid gaining weight. It can be a chronic condition that persists throughout life. However, it can also become a problem during pregnancy. An eating disorder characterized by constantly falling weight during pregnancy can pose serious consequences on the fetus.
Anorexia Nervosa and Pregnancy
Pregnancy, along with all its delicacies and complexities, can be complicated with an eating disorder. According to research and studies conducted by doctors and nutritionists around the world, it is common for women to develop an eating disorder, like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, during pregnancy.
There are numerous aspects of pregnancy that can be frightening in themselves for any woman, like various biological changes along with the necessary and very obvious weight gain. For a pregnant woman struggling with anorexia nervosa, these fears can be exacerbated to a completely different level as she has to fight against her eating disorder not only for her own life, but also for the life of her child who is going to enter the world soon.
These challenges for a pregnant woman suffering from an eating disorder can occur throughout the pregnancy period. This is because every trimester brings forth different encounters.
From conception to delivery, every passing day of the pregnancy period is crucial and important as well. All this directly affects the health of the unborn baby.
Harmful Effects of Anorexia Nervosa During Pregnancy
Low Birth Weight
Low birth weight is common among babies who are born with a birth weight less than 5½ pounds. Babies who do not get proper nutrition in the womb are at a higher risk of being born with low birth weight. In addition, low birth weight can be because of premature delivery as well. Premature delivery is a very obvious for women with anorexia nervosa during pregnancy. Furthermore, babies with low birth weight are more susceptible to serious medical conditions, like respiratory distress syndrome, brain bleeds and heart defects. In fact, low birth weight is also related to hypertension in later life.
Hindered Brain Development
As the baby grows in the womb, he/she requires certain nutrients for proper development. For example, folic acid is essential for proper development of spinal and brain column, while protein is crucial for cell reproduction. Malnutrition due to eating disorders can hinder proper development of brain by slowing the movement and connection of neurons in the brain. Fetal malnutrition is generally linked to lower IQ and learning disabilities in later life.
Poor nutrition and low calorie intake when in the womb can induce numerous developmental effects on the baby. These developmental issues persist later in life. For example, babies of mothers suffering from anorexia during pregnancy are more susceptible to developing heart disease and diabetes. In fact, there is an increase of 35% in the risk of death due to heart problems. Besides, these babies are also at a physical increased risk of suffering from learning disabilities and mood disorders in later life along with physical impairments like liver problems, cerebral palsy, and cleft palate.
Miscarriage and Stillbirth
Miscarriage is said to occur when a fetus is lost before the twentieth week of pregnancy, while stillbirth is said to occur after the twentieth week of pregnancy. Pregnant women suffering from anorexia are at a higher risk of both the conditions. This is because of the stress put on the fetus as a result of health problems related to anorexia nervosa in the mother. As per a study published in a British Journal, anorexic women are significantly more susceptible to have multiple miscarriages. Also even if they have recovered successfully from the disorder, anorexia nervosa.
Managing Health during Pregnancy with Anorexia Nervosa
It is very common for women with eating disorders to be capable of managing their eating disorder during pregnancy. It is crucial for you to be honest with your health provider about your eating disorder. Make sure that your health provider understands your condition and treats you with care and sensitivity. Your pregnancy may be classed as “high risk” and you might be monitored very carefully to manage your health along with that of the fetus.