Eating disorders: pregnancy and beyond, tell your story!
This article by Heidi_Psy.D brought back memories for me, a former eating disordered person (now healthy mom of two age 8 and 10!).
JOIN IN! TELL US WHAT YOU FACED (AND HOPEFULLY CONQUERED) DURING PREGNANCY REGARDING BODY IMAGE.
You’re thinking about having your first baby, and are focusing not of your bundle of joy but how you will get back into those pre-pregnancy jeans. Unusual? It’s not.
mv: I was very nervous about how my body would change during pregnancy. I wasn’t necessarily worried about relapsing into eating disordered behaviors since I was recovered for about 3 years when I was pregnant for the first time. I remember standing backwards on the scale at the doctors office and telling the nurse not to tell me the number –consider this, it helped me a great deal!
Although women have different experiences of body image and body satisfaction prior to and after delivery, many have trouble adjusting to pregnancy, especially those who have had a history of an eating disorder. For others it is not the post-baby body but the body during pregnancy that is the issue.
Abby has struggled with long-term issues with food and weight issues. “I was so delighted to get pregnant and I actually felt motivated to eat well,” she says, “Then I started to see the changes in my body, and wham, the obsessions were back worse than ever.”
Abby’s experiences are not unique. Eating disorders tend to peak during child-bearing years because they are biological illnesses (when hormones surge, so do eating disorders!). In addition, pregnancy is a time when body image concerns are more prevalent. For those already struggling with an eating disorder, the nine months of pregnancy can cause these disorders to worsen. And this can have serious consequences for mother and baby.
Restricting food intake, overeating, or engaging in binge/purge behaviors can result in complications including preterm labor, delayed fetal growth and gestational diabetes. Use of laxatives, diuretics and diet pills are of particular concern because they deplete nutrients and fluids before they are able to feed and nourish the baby. They may lead to fetal abnormalities, particularly if used on a regular basis.
mv: I think I am on record as thee most paranoid pregnant woman of all time (being an unmedicated anxiety freak will do that to ya). Engaging in any behavior that could potentially hurt the baby was out of the question, which in my case was a good thing I guess, though it didn’t ease body image woes.
Prior to becoming pregnant, it is important to consider the emotional and physical health of the mom-to-be. Try to visualize the changes that your body will go through and decide whether you are emotionally ready to handle these differences. There is no “magic bullet” that makes eating disorder symptoms go away while pregnant, so having symptoms under control prior to becoming pregnant is key, as is knowing your triggers and recognizing that pregnancy and the realities of a new baby can present challenges. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight will create a positive environment for the developing baby. Schedule a prenatal visit, and let your doctor know that you have been struggling with an eating disorder.
mv: This is very important, start out on the right foot, be honest with your doctor, and find one that will help you stay on track.
During pregnancy, it is important to strive for healthy weight gain, about 25-35 pounds over the 9-month period. This translates into about 300 extra calories per day. Meals should be balanced and contain appropriate nutrients. Avoid purging, laxative and diuretic use. It is also helpful to enlist the support of a therapist who specializes in working with eating disorders in order to address underlying concerns and help you adjust to your pregnant body.
mv: I gained 30 pounds when I was pregnant (both times) and I ate very healthy. One issue was vegetables smelled like gasoline to me so I couldn’t eat them for a time period (so I substituted them for chips and salsa for a few weeks). Seriously though, I think the key when pregnant or not is balance- just balance, which is particularly hard to achieve for those with EDs.
It is also important to recognize that the changes and associated weight gain of pregnancy develop over a period of nine months, It does not make sense to think that your body will immediately return to its pre-pregnancy weight. Buy clothing that you feel good in and honor the gift that your body has just provided – your baby.
mv: In case no one has broken the news to you, it takes about a year for your figure to settle and your body changes shape. The good news, and this is in all honesty, I like my body BETTER post pregnancy. I think it is because I feel more “womanly,” with larger boobs (I was an A, now a B, still mini to some).
YOUR TURN LADIES, LET’S HEAR THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE BEAUTIFUL!