Eating habits and moms-to-be

While pregnancy can prompt some women with eating disorders to get better, it may make others vulnerable to developing eating disorders for the first time, research shows.

The findings contradict the conventional wisdom that all women with eating disorders can take advantage of pregnancy as a time to recover, Dr Cynthia M. Bulik of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the study's lead author, told Reuters Health. "Basically it's important to know that it's not an automatic recovery mode. It doesn't mean that the minute you get pregnant, your eating disorder is going to go away."

The findings also underscore the importance of screening pregnant women for symptoms of eating disorders, which can lead to worse pregnancy outcomes for both mother and child, Bulik and her colleagues point out. "More often than not women don't disclose this to their obstetricians and their midwives," she noted.

Screen for eating disorders
Bulik and her team looked at 41 157 pregnant women participating in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study.

Before pregnancy, 0.1 percent of women had anorexia nervosa, 0.7 percent had bulimia nervosa, 3.5 percent had binge eating disorder, and 0.1 percent purged without bingeing.

Binge eating disorder is defined as eating an unusually large amount of food and feeling out of control, and should be distinguished from the normal increase in appetite that occurs in pregnancy, Bulik explained. People with the condition do not make themselves vomit or engage in other purging behaviors.

Among women who purged without bingeing before pregnancy, 78 percent stopped doing so while pregnant, the researchers found. Thirty-nine percent of women with binge eating disorder recovered during pregnancy, as did 34 percent of those with bulimia nervosa.

Pregnancy can spur binge eating
While it was rare for women to develop a purging disorder or bulimia nervosa for the first time while pregnant, 711 women in the study did develop binge eating disorder for the first time. Women with a higher body weight, less education and lower income were more likely to begin bingeing, as were those who smoked cigarettes, had more previous pregnancies, and had had at least one previous abortion.

"Pregnancy is a stressful time both biologically and psychologically," Bulik said. "It's possible that these women just didn't have the same kind of support systems and resources and for that reason pregnancy was more of a trigger for binge eating. Other people who might have a more 'padded' support system might be less prone to stress-induced symptoms," she added. - (Anne Harding/Reuters Health)

SOURCE: Psychological Medicine, August 2007.

Read more:
Investigating binge eating disorder
How to treat binge eating disorder

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Authorities should bring in the army already
10% - 1573 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
54% - 8563 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
33% - 5326 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
3% - 508 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
16.17
+0.5%
Rand - Pound
19.63
+0.2%
Rand - Euro
16.59
+0.2%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.52
+0.2%
Rand - Yen
0.12
+0.2%
Gold
1,802.29
0.0%
Silver
20.82
0.0%
Palladium
2,227.50
0.0%
Platinum
966.00
0.0%
Brent Crude
98.15
-1.5%
Top 40
63,996
-1.0%
All Share
70,731
-0.8%
Resource 10
64,048
-2.8%
Industrial 25
86,577
-0.6%
Financial 15
16,059
+0.6%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE