History of Anorexia or Bulimia Nervosa? Are You Putting Your Unborn Child At Risk?

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. On the other hand, subsequent studies done with larger clinical samples didn’t find any major differences between women with and without (a history) of eating disorders.

The authors summarize the current state of knowledge:

In short, the available evidence suggests that both active and past maternal [anorexia nervosa] may be associated with a decreased birth weight and that maternal ED might be associated with pregnancy and postnatal complications. Methodological limitations of previous

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Your Time in the Womb Matters: Risk Factors for Anorexia Nervosa

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 … Continue reading →