- by Dt Shail Yadav
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- Dec 04 2017
PREGOREXIA: Eating Disorders & Pregnancy
Eating Disorders are prevalent among ages but adolescents are the worst affected. Teenage girls, in particular, are more prone to eating disorders owing to a number of complex combination of cultural, environmental and genetic factors. Teenage eating disorders often go undiagnosed and make their way through adulthood, resulting in serious potential health problems. Pregnant women with a history of eating disorder are at a greater risk of developing complications.
Before we understand the effects of eating disorders on pregnancy, let’s first look at the three common variants of eating disorders.
- Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia is an eating disorder in which people keep their weight as low as possible, to the extent of becoming dangerously thin. It is characterised by starvation, extreme weight loss, fatigue, insomnia, abnormal blood count, dehydration, dizziness, irregular menstrual cycles and various other physical and emotional symptoms.
- Bulimia Nervosa
Unlike Anorexia, Bulimia involves episodes of binge eating, followed by sessions of purging, vomiting and other compensatory behaviours. Physical symptoms include fluctuation in weight, bloating, constipation, vomiting, bad breath, tooth decay, fainting, absence or disturbance in menstrual cycles; accompanied by other emotional and behavioural signs.
- Binge Eating Disorder
As the name suggests, this disorder is associated with frequent consumption of unusually large amounts of food without any purging later. People tend to eat excessively and are unable to resist or control the urge. Binge eating is not mere overeating as it involves eating a lot at extremely short intervals. Binge eating contributes to obesity and weight gain, which in turn may lead to diabetes, cholesterol, heart and kidney ailments, and gall bladder diseases.
Now that we have understood the forms of eating disorders, we need to analyse the ways in which these can threaten your pregnancy.
The average woman gains around 30 pounds during pregnancy. Ensuring an adequate and well-balanced diet is crucial to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Women suffering from eating disorders fail to cope with and manage their pregnancy diet.
For women suffering from eating disorders, fertility becomes a cause for concern. Malnutrition may result in amenorrhoea (loss of periods), shrinking of ovaries and improper reproductive growth; leading to fertility issues.
Expecting mothers with anorexia nervosa tend to be underweight and may not gain enough weight to sustain their pregnancy. Women with bulimia nervosa who continue to purge may suffer dehydration, chemical imbalances or even cardiac irregularities. They easily hide their behaviour by blaming it on nausea and morning sickness. Women who practice binge eating tend to be overweight and are at a greater risk of developing high blood pressure and gestational diabetes.
Such eating disorders put both the mother and fetus at heightened risks. Women with low body weight can develop obstetric complications. They generally experience difficult labor and may have to resort to caesarean or breech delivery. They are increased chances of miscarriage, preterm birth and severe morning sickness. Some other risks include cardiac irregularities, gestational diabetes, dehydration, depression and difficulties in nursing.
Infants born to mothers with eating disorders have abnormally low birth weight. They may suffer from respiratory infections, feeding difficulties, breech delivery, cleft palate, congenital malformations and other perinatal complications.
If you are pregnant and suffer from disordered eating, seek help. Consult a nutritionist who will help you plan a healthy pregnancy diet. Continue seeing the nutritionist post-delivery to return to a normal weight in a healthy manner. If you have a past history of eating disorder and are in remission, symptoms may recur during pregnancy due to heightened psychological sensitivity. It is advisable to screen the dietary behaviour of girls and provide them the appropriate assistance from an early age. If left untreated, such women would need extensive prenatal care and may face life long health consequences.
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