Pregnant Women With Eating Disorders Can Develop Pregorexia

Article Contributed by Staff of The Meadows Ranch

What is Pregorexia?

There are many things a mother-to-be can do to maximize the possibility of thriving in pregnancy, having a healthy baby and positive birth experience. Among the many different ways women can support a healthy pregnancy include regular, moderate exercise and a balanced diet.

For some women in pregnancy, extreme measures may be taken to regulate/control weight or in effort to prevent excessive weight gain. Described by the term “pregorexia,” this condition is characterized by eating disorder-like symptoms and behaviors during pregnancy [1].

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When a pregnant woman practices extreme dieting and/or is consistently exercising to an unhealthy degree, she is far more concerned with weight than health. This is highly individualized; in other words, what is considered excessive for one woman does not hold true across the board.

However, if a woman is routinely exercising to the point of exhaustion, this should be considered a red flag. To make matters worse, this inordinate focus on weight gain often extends to her diet, as well.

She may take in far fewer calories than her body requires, possibly causing risk to her unborn baby, in the form of lower birth weight, birth defects, and growth retardation.

Pregnant woman with an eating disorderHowever, by restricting calories, she is even more likely to cause harm to herself. You see, the first priority where a pregnancy is concerned, is the baby.

For example, if calcium appears to be in short supply, the growing baby will get what’s available, while the mother goes without.

By cutting back, or eliminating calcium-rich products altogether, the mother may experience osteopenia or osteoporosis. If you or someone you love suffers from an eating disorder while pregnant, talk to your doctor immediately and look at information on eating disorder treatment.

Causes of Pregorexia

What factors cause pregorexia? The combination of both biological and environmental factors can contribute to the development of pregorexia. America is utterly obsessed with thinness; witness the fact that ten million women and girls currently have eating disorders. The nature of a dieting culture society can be an environmental stressor for a susceptible woman. Now, add to that, our fascination with celebrities, mostly actresses and models, many of whom seem to be having babies lately.

And the truth is these beautiful people go right on looking amazing during their pregnancies. It only gets worse after they deliver; within about an hour of having a baby, these women look splendid back in their tight pre-baby clothes.

Of course, few expectant or new mothers gazing at the photos of these new moms in glossy magazines keep in mind that the pictures are probably altered to make the celebrity appear far different than she really is.

Women who are biologically predisposed to having an eating disorder may be triggered by the major life event of pregnancy. The many physical and emotional changes experienced in pregnancy can be overwhelming for women, and some may turn to food and exercise as a means of establishing some sense of control during this season of life.

Results of Pregorexia

While there are many complex factors that can contribute to the experience of pregorexia, the risk factors involved to both the mother and developing baby are severe and cannot be understated.

Pregnant mother making a heart with her fingersWithout appropriate and professional interventions, the behaviors associated with pregorexia can be detrimental to a baby during pregnancy, increasing risk of low birth weight, which is associated with psychological issues, mood disorders, and stunted cognitive development later in life.

Women with pregorexia can also have increased risk of mood disorders, such as depression, which can make it more challenging to effectively bond once their baby is born. With the number of risks involved to both mother and baby, seeking out help and treatment for pregorexia is a necessity.

Establishing a Healthy Pregnancy

If you are pregnant … rejoice! Eat well, remain fit, gain a healthy amount of weight and see your obstetrician regularly. Do not compare yourselves to others, especially those you see in magazines. Instead, focus on the blessing of the healthy baby that is soon to be a wonderful addition to your life.

Article Contributed by Staff of The Meadows Ranch:

For over 25 years, The Meadows Ranch has offered an unparalleled depth of care through its unique, comprehensive, and individualized program for treating eating disorders and co-occurring conditions affecting adolescent girls and women. Set on scenic ranch property in the healing landscape of Wickenburg, Arizona, The Meadows Ranch allows for seamless transitions between its structured multi-phase treatment. A world-class clinical team of industry experts leads the treatment approach designed to uncover and understand the “whys” of the eating disorder through a host of proven modalities. Providing individuals with tools to re-engage in a healthy relationship with food – and with themselves – disempowers eating disorders and empowers individuals with a renewed enthusiasm for life. Contact us today at 888-496-5498 and find out why The Meadows Ranch is the best choice for eating disorder treatment and recovery. For more information call 1-888-496-5498.. or visit


[1]: Mathieu J. What is pregorexia? J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Jun;109(6):976-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.04.021.

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.

Edited & Updated By: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC on August 19, 2017.
Recently Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 2, 2018.
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