Managing An Eating Disorder During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is tough on every woman who goes through it, mostly because of the toll it takes on the human body. However, it can be especially emotionally taxing for those who suffer from distorted body image. Pregnancy changes the body in so many ways. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, while also trying to maintain a healthy pregnancy, you can employ some of the following strategies.

1. Start or Continue Therapy

If you have been recovering on your own, but find that the body changes during pregnancy have caused you to slide back in your progress, it's time to make sure you're getting professional help from a mental health professional. One of the key ways that people begin to recover from eating disorders is through metacognition—thinking about thinking.

A therapist will usually have you keep a journal about your thoughts, and then, during a session, will review those thoughts with you. Soon, you'll begin to recognize which thought patterns are actually fueling the feelings that lead to destructive behaviors. If you are able to stop or change these thought patterns, you should be able to gain more control over compulsions like binging, purging, or refraining from eating. 

2. Eat Healthy Foods

Often, eating disorders can be fueled by feelings if inadequacy and guilt. Because of the hormones that affect the body when pregnant, anxiousness may actually increase, which can make problems with eating disorders worse. However, you can help to keep these feelings at bay by eating three meals a day that include vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins. You will be able to reduce guilt you might feel toward yourself because you know that you are providing your baby with needed nutrition.

You should also ask your midwife to monitor your blood nutrient levels. For example, it is common for pregnant women to be iron deficient. If you are struggling to get enough nutrients as it is, your provider may recommend a supplement that is friendly to the digestive system—some supplements can cause constipation in pregnant women.

If you don't have a midwife, consider using resources like to talk with one. They can help motivate you to keep positive and keep an eye on your health throughout the entire pregnancy.

3. Learn Body Acceptance

If you are preoccupied with weight, it can be hard to see the numbers on the scale creep up as your pregnancy progresses. It's important to keep track of what you eat, to make sure you are getting enough, but it is also important to make sure that you are able to accept that these changes happen to all women who bear children. You can help to improve how you feel about your own body by:

  • reducing your media consumption. Research shows a correlation between increased media consumption and instances of disordered eating. Often, women portrayed in the media are so different from the pregnant physique that it can lead you to relapse or feel worse about your pregnant body
  • listening to positive affirmation tracks. Remember, you body is doing an amazing thing. It is creating a new life. All of the body changes you are experiencing are for the benefit of your baby, and will help you to have safe and healthy birth. Positive affirmation tracks repeat the positive aspects of pregnancy and the pregnant body over and over. They can help form new thought patterns as you listen to them regularly. 
  • taking classes to help you to feel more in control of your pregnancy and birth. Eating disorders are all about control, and the unknown can be a scary thing for those who are still not fully recovered. You can help to assuage feelings of helplessness by taking birth preparation classes from midwives, lactation consultants, hypno-birthing specialists, or labor and delivery nurses. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will feel about your choices and abilities.