If you struggle or have a history of struggling with an eating disorder, pregnancy can present a multitude of triggers and complications. The impending weight gain and body changes that are necessary to nourish your growing baby can be extremely problematic and disconcerting for someone who has spent so much time and energy avoiding weight gain.
Over 30 million Americans will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives. People with an active eating disorder or those in recovery often use behaviors such as restricting, binging, purging or over-exercising to numb or avoid intense emotions and regain a sense of control over perceived chaos and unpredictability. Many people wonder if things like anorexia can cause infertility, or how they will cope once they get pregnant. This is normal and it’s important to speak with your doctor about these feelings.
Post Eating Disorder, Pregnancy and The Scale.
For many of my clients, pregnancy and the postpartum period can be a time of immense stress. Not only due to drastic body changes, but also as they grapple with fears about parenthood and the uncertainty that awaits. The weigh-ins at the doctor’s office might be the first time a woman in recovery has been on the scale in years. I talk to my clients about preparing for this ahead of time. The scale will be going up, and that is OK. Speak with your OBGYN about how you want to communicate your weight. You may prefer to do blind weigh-ins and opt to just be informed of your general weight trends.
The weigh-ins at the doctor’s office might be the first time a woman in recovery has been on the scale in years.
For others post-eating disorder, pregnancy and postpartum are times of healing and change. You may find the strength to let go of the eating disorder when you realize the way you treat food and your own body is not congruent with the messages you want to pass along to your baby. For some women, pregnancy is a much-needed shift away from the mentality of “How does my body look?”. It is a time they shift to a mindset of “Look at what my body can do!” After recovery from eating disorders, like bulimia, pregnancy can be challenging. I encourage you to embrace the later mentality and work to accept your changing body, even if it’s just a little bit.
Self-care during Pregnancy and Postpartum
There are many ways to mother yourself through pregnancy and postpartum. Especially if you struggle or have struggled with an eating disorder. Here are my top strategies:
- Get help with your eating disorder prior to pregnancy. Having some time in recovery prior to getting pregnant is the best way to set yourself up for success.
- Have a postpartum support plan. This may look like a team of professionals who have experience treating eating disorders including a therapist, dietitian, and physician.
- Be open and honest with your support system about your struggles. Bring them into the conversation so they know what to look out for and how to best support you.
- Find time for self-care. Set aside time to eat regular meals, stay connected to friends and family and find ways to get your own needs met.
Gaining weight can feel uncomfortable for all women, even those who haven’t struggled with an eating disorder. It’s important to be at a healthy weight while TTC. Low weight can be a contributor to fertility issues, and gaining weight can boost fertility. Additionally, gaining weight throughout pregnancy is essential to your baby’s development. So, enlist your support team, talk about your struggles and concerns, make a plan and mother yourself.