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Eating Disorders and Pregnancy

by Phyllis Klein, LCSW

Do you have an EATING problem that no one knows about? If you are pregnant, or want to get pregnant, here is some information for you...

If you currently feel out of control with food, make yourself throw up, use laxatives, or are afraid of gaining the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy, it is important to get help.

An eating disorder is a treatable problem. It goes without saying that the pressure to be thin is never ending for women. Women often feel shame about eating when they perceive their weight to be too high, and they keep their concerns a secret. The problem can take various forms and can be mild, moderate, and severe. If you are considering pregnancy but not yet pregnant, this is a good time to get help for your eating problem. You are not alone.

Why Getting Help is Important:

Here is why getting help is so important, especially during pregnancy, or if you are planning to become pregnant. Low body weight, or an eating disorder, can interfere with getting pregnant. Among patients seeking infertility treatment, it is estimated that the incidence of eating disorders in women who have stopped menstruating or have infrequent periods is 58%. Your baby's health will be enhanced, including a lowered risk of low birth weight, and your health during pregnancy will be improved. Weight gain during pregnancy can be scary for all women or can feel out of control. Getting the support you need can help reduce your fear both during and after pregnancy, thus lowering stress for you and your baby. Pregnancy can be a time of relaxation from the tyranny of the need to be thin. Sometimes women will actually feel comfortable eating differently, and in some cases this can continue after your pregnancy. The pressure to diet and lose weight quickly after the birth of your baby can lead to feelings of stress and frustration. This is a high-risk time for eating problems to recur.

What You Can Do:

Find someone to tell whom you believe will not judge you. If that person does judge you or is uncomfortable, find someone else! It is important not to give up.

Once the secret is out, you can begin to seek out the resources you need. Individual therapy with someone who specializes in eating disorders is a good place to start, especially to get an evaluation that can lead to recommendations suited to your individual needs. Group programs focused on eating problems, either support groups or therapy groups, can be helpful when they do not focus on dieting. Individual and group therapy together can work very well.

There are many forms of treatment available, and it is important to find
what works best for you, what you are most comfortable with, and what makes sense from a medical perspective. In finding the right referral, your intuition and instinct are important guides. When you have found someone, you can develop a positive, confidential relationship with a helping professional (your doctor, nurse, or a psychotherapist) who can assist you during and beyond your pregnancy.

Ask Yourself

1. Do you worry a lot about gaining weight?
2. Are you always on a diet that seems to fail?
3. Have you "given up" and gained ten or more pounds very quickly?
4. Do you use food to punish or reward yourself?
5. Does your eating sometimes feel out of control?
6. Do you binge to cope with difficult emotions, purge to attempt to control your weight, or starve because you think you are too heavy?
7. Do you only think you feel good about yourself when you are at a low weight?
8. Do you think you are "fat" when everyone else thinks you are fine, or worries that you are too thin?
9. Do you exercise excessively because you fear gaining weight?
10.Does your life revolve around eating, food, and dieting?

Do you see yourself? Now is a good time to reach out and talk to someone who can help you and your baby.
Article submitted by and permission to use granted by Phyllis Klein, LCSW. Copyright Phyllis Klein, LCSW. Phyllis Klein is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and psychotherapist. She has been in private practice for over twenty years specializing in women's issues, including eating disorders. She has offices located in San Francisco and Palo Alto, California. Phyllis can be reached at via email at gethelp@womenintherapy.com , via telephone at 415-273-1036. For additional information about this article or Phyllis please visit her website at www.PhyllisKlein.com
A study has revealed 1 in 14 women have an eating disorder in their first trimester of pregnancy.
The survey of over 700 women, conducted by UCL, discovered that a quarter of participants were ‘highly concerned about their weight and shape’.
Not only were 2 per cent found to fast, excessively exercise, induce vomiting and misuse laxatives and diuretics during pregnancy but one in 12 would also binge and overeat twice a week.

The lead author of the study, Dr Nadia Micali at UCL Institute of Child Health, said the findings revealed enough evidence to suggest that ‘eating disorders in pregnancy can affect both the mother and the developing baby.’

The researchers are advocating for a ‘Greater awareness of eating disorders and their symptoms amongst antenatal health care professionals’ to help ‘identify and manage such disorders’.

Dr Abigail Easter, also from the UCL Institute of Child Health, added: ‘Typical pregnancy symptoms such as weight gain and vomiting can also mask the presence of an eating disorder. Many women with eating disorders may therefore go undetected and untreated during pregnancy.’

Furthermore Easter worried that women with eating disorders may be reluctant to disclose their illness in fear of stigma from healthcare professionals. As a result the researchers are calling for women to be screened for eating disorders at their first antenatal check-up to help support expectant mothers.

Marie Claire Article

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