Is It Safe to Get Pregnant While Recovering from Anorexia?

By October 10, 2012

I was diagnosed with anorexia 3 years ago. I am 5 foot 8 inches and got down to *** pounds. With a lot of therapy and treatment (I went to Renfrew for 1 month) I am now at *** pounds. I am able to maintain this comfortably and eat still only about 1000-1200 calories a day. I realize this is too low and I get “starving” at times and will binge on a super sugary treat. For example, instead of one piece of cake, I’ll eat 3 jumbo slices. Then I feel sick and will skip the next meal (all disordered I am aware). My question is this. I eat 3 meals a day (which total 1000-1200 cal) and I do NOT excerise. I am 35 years old and want to have a baby. My husband and I went to my obgyn and he told me to go off the pill to see if I even get a period (I havent had one in 3 years) Do you think this is wise/safe? Will being pregnant harm me or my baby? Will I be able to have children??? – a.

 Dear a.,

I know nothing more pure then the desire to give life. As the mother of twin boys in my late 30’s I understand the desire to conceive. As a fellow sojourner with disordered eating, I also understand the struggle that can occur between the mind and the body. Understand that insulin/glucose levels can also play a role in hormone function and overall health.

I am not a medical doctor. It is important for you to choose a physician that (1) is familiar with disordered eating and demonstrates sensitivity to your needs, (2) and is capable of determining your ability to conceive. There is some evidence that a certain amount of body fat is necessary for appropriate ovulation and hormone levels. On the other hand, too much body fat (as in persons struggling with obesity) can similarly cause hormone imbalances and difficulty with ovulation.

Outside of the physiological issues associated with your case are the obvious psychological and emotional questions you must ask yourself…

What draws me to consider pregnancy at this stage in my life? Am I choosing it out of fear (I am getting older) or out of peace (I want to move forward and add “mom” to my list of self descriptors) and wholeness?

What will being pregnant demand of me physically? Emotionally? Spiritually? What will it demand I cease doing? How will I respond when I realize I have to submit to the pregnancy over my own desires, wishes, impulses, drives?

When I have had to really push through something in the past (do something I did not want to do) how did I get through it? What helped?

When I am pregnant what choices for support do I have with my disordered eating? Do I know a good dietitian/nutritionist who understands disordered eating and pregnancy? Have I built a support network that will support my pregnancy and my healing?

Out of all my friends, cohorts, and relatives who is that 3 AM person that I can call on the day I struggle the most and receive acceptance, nurture, and love?

You can tell by the multitude of questions I list that the process of moving from one kind of body experience to another demands strategy, care and pre-planning. Understand that pregnancy comes in stages: pre-contemplation (deciding whether or not to have children), contemplation (I think I am going to cease birth control and see if I get pregnant), active process (being sexual, testing for pregnancy, waiting), stress induced activity (the lack of immediate results and fear of infertility), pregnancy or referral to fertility specialist, and so on. Understand where you are in the process (the e-mail reads as if you are at the pre-contemplation stage) and “Be” in that process. Do not start with pre-contemplation and arrive at stress induced activity in the same evening!

Remember, pregnancy and motherhood are all about:

  1. Respecting our physical self
  2. Taking care of our emotional self
  3. Role modeling to another how to take care of self
  4. Sharing Self

Begin finding ways to practice those four demands alone and resist the desire to pull your self to a stress induced state. Take your recovery, your healing, and your growth one day at a time.

Best wishes,