Managing Chronic Eating Disorder Symptoms During Pregnancy

Woman concerned with Fertility and Eating Disorders

Pregnancy is an experience that changes a woman from the inside out as goes through the process of bringing a new baby into the world. For many women, pregnancy can feel like a vulnerable time, as there are often many unknowns in the motherhood journey.

Seeing how your body changes during pregnancy can also bring many uncertainties for a woman, especially one who might be struggling with an eating disorder.

Experiencing pregnancy while also having an eating disorder can bring about many triggers and unexpected challenges.

Some women may feel empowered by seeing what their body is capable of doing, and as a result, feel motivated to remain in remission and treatment. Other women may feel triggered by the pregnancy itself or pregnancy related symptoms that relapse into eating disorder behaviors occurs.

Learning to Manage Chronic Eating Disorder Side Effects

Things may become unexpectedly complicated when a woman is continuing to manage chronic eating disorder side effects during pregnancy. Even long after treatment for an eating disorder has concluded, a woman may continue to combat the many physical, emotional, mental, and psychological consequences of an eating disorder.

While many side effects that may result from an eating disorder can be reversed with appropriate treatment and help, there are others that are more difficult to heal from or simply take a much longer time. For example, a woman who has developed osteoporosis as a result of malnutrition from an eating disorder will need to pay special attention to this during pregnancy, particularly as this is a time where nutrients are in even higher demand on the body.

Other chronic side effects from an eating disorder may include digestive issues, dehydration, muscle loss, electrolyte or blood pressure abnormalities, mood disorders, such as anxiety and/or depression, as well as body dysmorphia. Because pregnancy can exacerbate many of these side effects that may already be present from the eating disorder, seeking out professional assistance through pregnancy is crucial.

Working With Your Treatment Team

It is crucial to be transparent with your OBGYN or midwife about your medical history, including an eating disorder. This can help your practitioner better identify potential issues that they should be aware of during your pregnancy and ultimately improve your care.

Research has shown that the most effective care for pregnant women with eating disorders includes more frequent appointments than normal to provide psychological support and physical monitoring, guidance with nutrition, along with consistent communication with the midwife and obstetrician [1].

If you have struggled with an eating disorder and are now pregnant, know that you can have a healthy pregnancy and positive outcome for you and your baby with appropriate interventions and care.


Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Director of Content and Social Media for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.


[1]: Ward, V. B. (2008). Eating disorders in pregnancy. BMJ : British Medical Journal, 336(7635), 93–96.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 9, 2017
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