Pregorexia is a term the media uses for women that have an eating disorder during the time they are pregnant and/or during early motherhood. Individuals affected by the disorder tend to be preoccupied with controlling pregnancy weight gain through food restriction, bingeing and purging, over-exercising, abusing laxatives. diuretics, or diet pills. It is estimated that 1 in 20 women suffer from an eating disorder while pregnant; 60-70% of eating disorder patients relapse during pregnancy.
According to the Mayo Clinic, warning signs of Pregorexia include:
- talking about the pregnancy as if it wasn’t real
- obsessiveness over calorie counting
- eating alone or skipping meals
- excessive exercise
- pre-occupation with the scale and weight gain
- minimal weight gain during pregnancy
- signs of depression
Pregorexia puts the health of both the mother and the baby at risk. Disordered eating behaviors during pregnancy can affect the mother in a variety of way including malnutrition, dehydration, heart issues, premature birth, miscarriage, and depression. Gaining too little weight during pregnancy can affect the health of the baby in numerous ways including low birth weight, vitamin deficiencies, neurological problems, lower IQ, growth retardation, and other long-term health problems.
Psychologically speaking, pregorexia can be driven by a number of dynamics:
- the media puts a lot of pressure on women to be thing, even during pregnancy
- Some women associate motherhood with losing control of their bodies, losing control of their lives and/or losing their identity
- gaining weight and bodily changes are difficult for most women during pregnancy, but it is especially difficult for those that have a history of disordered eating.
- the idea of becoming a mother is frightening to some because they don’t believe they can take care of themselves, let alone a baby. They believe that if they keep their body small (like a child) this means that someone, usually parents, will have to take care of them.
- sometimes the idea of becoming parents can cause relationship difficulties, making the mother-to-be feel out of control, she may try to regain control by controlling her food, weight, and exercise
Like all eating disorders, it is important to seek out treatment if you or a loved one struggles with pregorexia. Treatment often involves the obstetrician, psychological counselling, and nutritional support. A holistic approach that balances body, mind and spirit is the most successful form of treatment.
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