What is Pregorexia?

Pregorexia is a term used to describe disordered eating during pregnancy. Disordered eating during pregnancy can be dangerous for both mother and baby. This post will go over the signs and symptoms of Pregorexia and will talk about causes and treatment.

Table of Contents

    What is Pregorexia?

    Even though Pregorexia isn’t an official diagnosis, it is a term that media came up with describe something very real. Pregorexia is when someone uses disordered eating to control the amount of weight they gain during pregnancy. This behavior can turn into an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia.

    Pregorexia Symptoms & Signs

    There are a few different warning signs of Pregorexia.

    Here are some of the signs and symptoms that someone may be dealing with an eating disorder during pregnancy:

    • Excessive or compulsive exercise
    • Unwillingness to change their exercise routine
    • Restricting food intake
    • Obsessive calorie counting
    • Self-induced vomiting
    • Laxative use
    • Feeling shame or guilt about weight gain
    • Weighing yourself several times a day or doing other things to measure the size of your body
    • Fear or intense distress about gaining weight
    • Avoid going to doctor’s appointments
    • Feel disconnected from the baby growing inside them
    • Avoid social situations with friends or family [1]
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    Potential Health Risks: The Dangers to Mother and Baby

    Eating disorders are always dangerous. For pregnant people, an eating disorder endangers both them and their baby.

    The potential health risks of disordered eating during pregnancy include:

    • Bone loss for the pregnant person
    • Growth restrictions for the baby
    • Fetal developmental problems
    • Low birth weight due to lack of nutrients
    • Fatigue beyond what is normal in pregnancy
    • Electrolyte abnormalities
    • Dehydration
    • Dizziness
    • Increased risk of prolonged labor
    • Increased risk of miscarriage [1]
    pregnant lady

    What Are the Causes?

    There isn’t one single thing that causes an eating disorder. Often it’s a combination of factors that contribute to the development of an eating disorder. Here are some things that can be influential:

    • Previous history of an eating disorder. If someone had an eating disorder previously or were dealing with one when they got pregnant, then they are more likely to struggle with an eating disorder during pregnancy [1]
    • Societal Pressure. There is a significant pressure for people in Western society to be thin. Individuals are flooded with images and messages about what their body should look like. This is true for pregnant people, as well. There is constant talk about how much weight a celebrity gained during their pregnancy and other information about how to stay fit during pregnancy. This can create pressure to stay as thin as possible.
    • Unresolved Mental Illnesses. It isn’t uncommon for people with eating disorders to also struggle with another mental condition, like anxiety or depression. Pregnancy can be an exciting time, but it can also be overwhelming and stressful. An eating disorder may be an individual’s response to their unique stressors.
    • Genetics. Eating disorders have a genetic component. While there isn’t a specific gene for eating disorders, people with family members who have an eating disorder are more likely to also develop one.

    Pregorexia Treatment

    Treatment for an eating disorder often includes treatment from a multidisciplinary team. Treatment also depends on the severity of someone’s eating disorder. Treatment for Pregorexia could take place at different levels of care, including:

    • Hospitalization
    • Residential
    • Intensive day programs
    • Outpatient therapy and nutritional counseling

    At each of these levels of care, treatment often includes the following:

    • Medical care and supervision. A doctor oversees the medical aspects of the eating disorder and recovery process. For a pregnant person, an OGBYN may also be involve to monitor the baby’s health as well.
    • Therapy. Therapy for an eating disorder may include individual, group, or family therapy. Individual therapy can help an individual develop coping skills that are unique to them, explore any unresolved emotions, and work on any untreated mental health issues. Group therapy can be helpful for people in recovery because it provides an opportunity to talk with other people who are in a similar situation. Family or couple’s therapy can also be beneficial so that an individual’s loved ones can better understand how to support them.
    • Nutritional counseling. A registered dietitian (RD) provides nutritional counseling. An RD can help someone develop healthier food habits and work through any disordered beliefs about food.

    There are a variety of research and evidence-based techniques that treatment professionals may use to treat someone with Pregorexia. Getting treatment is important not only for the pregnant person, but also for the baby.

    Someone struggling with disordered eating during pregnancy may feel ashamed or fear judgment. It’s important to seek treatment from a qualified professional who can hold your concerns and struggles with compassion.

    1. Lindberg, S. (2020, September 28). Could you be experiencing “Pregorexia?” Here’s how to break the cycle. Healthline. Retrieved September 28th, 2021 from https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/pregorexia

    Author: Samantha Bothwell, LMFT

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    Page Last Reviewed and Updated on October 14, 2021 by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC