Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa can affect a woman’s reproductive health and fertility. Many women struggling with anorexia are underweight and exercise excessively in fear of gaining weight. These habits can lead to irregular menstrual cycles, and some women with anorexia may stop menstruating altogether.
When a woman loses her period, regardless of whether she has anorexia, her ovulation cycle stops and she will be unable to conceive a child. However, not all women with anorexia lose their periods. In these cases, it is possible to become pregnant while anorexic, but the pregnancy may be high-risk and complicated for both the mother and the baby.
Although it is possible for a woman to be anorexic and become pregnant, her anorexia will likely directly endanger her baby’s life if it remains untreated. If a pregnant woman has anorexia, she may need to enroll in some form of anorexia treatment to ensure her safety and that of her baby. Pregnant women who have anorexia need more monitoring and medical support than women who do not have eating disorders.
Can Anorexia Cause Miscarriage?
Research shows that women who have histories of eating disorders, including anorexia, are more likely to experience a miscarriage. Studies conducted with pregnant women showed that the women who had bulimia nervosa were significantly more likely than the general population to have a miscarriage. The same study cited that, compared to the general public, pregnant women with anorexia were far more likely to birth small, underweight babies.
Miscarriages are not the only complications that arise from anorexia and pregnancy. Additional risks to the baby include:
- Premature birth
- Breathing problems
- Feeding problems
- Low birth weight
Fortunately, anorexia is treatable with the right care, even during pregnancy. Some of the risks associated with anorexia and pregnancy can be mitigated with a combination of medical support and psychological counseling.