You know how you are not supposed to get on the topic of kids on your first date? Well, I did. Clearly I wasn’t good at following social rules (in my defense, this was many years ago). “It would be cool to be surrogate mother,” I said. And then I thought about it. “But that would probably be difficult, who would want me to carry their child?” Needless to say, my date was confused. I thought, surely having had an eating disorder and a long history of amenorrhea would put me at an increased risk of complications during pregnancy?
So this made me wonder, what is the effect of having had an eating disorder on pregnancy? And more specifically, are women who’ve had eating disorders more likely to experience perinatal and delivery complications?
Like with a lot of things, the information out there is mixed. (This is why one study is never enough and replication is crucial.) Early studies seemed to have suggested that women with EDs face an increased risk complications during the last stage of pregnancy and during delivery. …
A not-so-recent, but interesting paper by Cynthia Bulik and colleagues outlines an interesting model for perinatal risk factors in the development of anorexia nervosa. The model ”focuses on adverse perinatal events and prematurity as risk factors for AN and encompasses the potential role of passive gene-environment correlation in perpetuating AN risk.”
Importantly, this model “provides intriguing data on a potential cycle of risk for at least a subset of individuals with AN.” The word subset is important: this model, if true – and we don’t know yet, undoubtedly applies only to a proportion of individuals that develop anorexia nervosa, so keep that in mind.
(In case you are wondering, because I was, perinatal period starts at 140 days of gestation and ends 28 days post birth, prenatal period is any time before birth.)
Trying to figure out the risk factors for anorexia, a rare disorder (<1% of the population), is challenging. One of the best ways to determine real risk factors (as opposed to early symptoms, such as dieting and overexercise) is to do longitudinal prospective studies: tracking lots of people over an extended period of time, and …