Andrea Markowitz, Ph.D.
April 15, 2010
"Pregorexia" is a relatively new, unofficial term for pregnant women who are anorexic. An editor of The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt Blog wishes the word had never been coined. In the editor's opinion, it erroneously implies that anorexic behaviors will cease after the woman delivers her baby. Another concern is that being labeled "pregorexic" can deter a pregnant woman from reporting her eating disorder to her health care provider.
What is Anorexia?
WomensHealth.gov describes anorexia as an eating disorder marked by an intense fear of gaining weight. It affects mostly women. People with anorexia eat miniscule amounts of food because they think they are too fat, even though they are unhealthily thin. But their insistence on starving themselves is not just due to their distorted body image-it helps them feel more in control of life.
Why Some Pregnant Women Become Anorexic
Experts explain that a fear of gaining too much weight during pregnancy doesn't cause women to become anorexic-anorexic pregnant women were either predisposed to be anorexic or were already anorexic before they conceived, and their anorexia will likely continue post-pregnancy. ("When Women Strive to Be [sic] Super Thin During Pregnancy," www.pregnancytoday.com).
In general, factors that place people at risk for becoming anorexic include genetics, biology, family history of an eating disorder and related psychiatric disorders. The American media's obsession with string-bean thin pregnant celebrities may encourage some women who were asymptomatic but predisposed to anorexia to become anorexic after they get pregnant.
Anorexia's Harmful Effects on Mother and Child
According to Pregnancy Today pregnant women who are undernourished and underweight increase their risk of hypertension, vaginal bleeding, anemia, cesarean deliveries and postpartum depression. They may require hospitalization and intravenous feeding, and have problems breastfeeding their baby.
Laxatives, diuretics, and other medications taken to stay thin may harm the developing fetus and cause fetal abnormalities by taking away nutrients and fluids before they can nourish the baby. The infants may be born with a low birth weight or birth defects.
What to do if You're Anorexic
The American Pregnancy Association suggests that women address their eating disorder tendencies prior to becoming pregnant. For example, achieve and maintain a healthy weight, start a nutritionist-planned healthy pregnancy diet, and get counseling.
During pregnancy, inform your prenatal health care provider about your eating disorder, strive for healthy weight gain, eat nutritious, well-balanced meals and continue getting counseling.
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