Eating Disorders and Pregnancy: Women with “Pregorexia”

Pregnant WomenPregorexia isn’t exactly a medical term. It’s a term adopted to describe the presence of symptoms that resemble anorexia in pregnant women.

Women with this disorder show an excessive fear of gaining pregnancy-related weight. In fact, they turn to various methods, which include restricting their calorie intake and doing extreme exercises, to dodge the weight increases that signify a healthy, normal pregnancy.

These behaviors yield pregnancy complications as well as premature childbirth accompanied by various health conditions associated with an unusually low weight at birth.

Pregnant — and Starving

It’s usual for pregnant women to gain weight during pregnancy to supplement the nutrition of the life growing inside her. It’s normal, then, for an expecting mother to gain anywhere from 11 to 40 pounds. If she is expecting multiple births, weight gain can be more significant.

A woman with pregorexia, however, can find it difficult to separate the need to physically support the needs of the developing child in her womb from the unhealthy fixation with remaining at a certain weight.

The fear of gaining weight can eventually take over. This is when the expecting mom with pregorexia takes drastic measures to avoid weight gain.

According to the Mayo Clinic, this condition is relatively rare. The American Psychiatric Disorder, meanwhile, does not regard it as a distinct eating disorder. In fact, the organization filed it under a general category that encompasses partially defined ailments called “eating disorders not otherwise specified.”

While not a medically recognized disorder, pregorexia can affect women all over the world, including Maggie Baumann.

The Story of Maggie Baumann

Then expectant mother, Maggie Baumann, was determined not gain pregnancy weight. When she was pregnant with her first child, in fact, she refused to “eat for two.” Instead, she obsessed over her calorie consumption and followed a stringent exercise routine.

She still, however, gained 32 pounds — very much within the average weight gain expected in pregnant mothers. During her second pregnancy, she vowed to never let it happen again.

Today, Baumann devotes her time to helping pregnant women with eating disorders. She shares that there are plenty of pregnant women suffering from eating disorders who choose to stay mum about what they are going through because of the stigma associated with the disorder.

The Stigma of Pregorexia

Pregnant women with eating disorders often feel embarrassed about seeking medical help. Anorexia is a distinct disorder that can pose greater risks for expecting mothers, however. This is why professionals highlight the importance of seeking help from caring anorexia treatment professionals. They zero in on the root of the eating disorder, so they can formulate treatment that will lead patients on the path to recovery that will continue even after the baby’s birth.

Baumann shares that it’s important to make women feel secure about seeking help. They should not be shamed into silence.

Professionals say that when a pregnant woman denies or is unaware of her actions, the family should step in and help her take the first step towards receiving treatment. Awareness does wonders – it can help an expecting mother to reach out for help so she can better care for herself and her unborn baby.

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