Eating Disorders in Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be a difficult time for people with eating disorders.

In normal circumstances, hormones lead to weight gain and eating changes to support the additional 80,000 calories needed for the pregnancy and ongoing breastfeeding.

Regular weighing takes place to check the health of the mother and child, and to ensure that the baby is getting adequate nutrition for central nervous system health at the least. Weighing helps to against gestational diabetes and alert about dangerous conditions like pre eclampsia. Weighing can be traumatic for people with body image issues.

Sadly, there is a great deal of pressure on social media for women to gain as little weight as possible during pregnancy as a “badge of pride,” ignoring the effects that this might have on a child’s future mental and physical wellbeing.

For people with eating and body image issues, pregnancy can be very difficult.

Here are some of the dangers associated with different types of ED in pregnancy.


Binge eating and purging during pregnancy is dangerous, for example loss of potassium as a result of purging including laxative abuse might impair development of the central nervous system of the developing baby. Nutritional support to help prevent cravings is needed alongside urgent help to manage their eating disorder.


Some people living with AN give themselves a holiday from the ED and permit themselves to eat only to begin restricting after childbirth. Others continue to restrict and may not cope with looking pregnant. The risks to mother and child in such situations are critical and the person with AN during pregnancy needs a great deal of compassionate help.

Binge & compulsive eating

Binge eating is not just taking in a lot of food. Because binge eating is usually highly processed sugar rich food that provides emotional comfort, there are profound metabolic effects. These in turn can switch on epigenetic changes that predict future weight struggles in the developing child. People who enter pregnancy with pre existing struggles to control eating and weight need informed help to manage their relationship with food from the get-go.

They do NOT need being shamed by health professionals about size or weight gain and they do NOT need well-meaning advice about how to eat a healthier diet.

Every single pregnant woman with runaway weight gain during pregnancy will benefit from compassionate help from someone who can talk to them without blame about their relationship with food.

Pregnant women do not respond well to midwives and doctors telling them what they should do for the good of their baby. The best way to protect the baby is to look after the mother and the people who support her.


Kings College London has a Video to support women in Pregnancy

Here is another perinatal support website

The British Journal of Midwifery has an article to support midwives – hope they read this

Susie Orbach talks about the needs of eating disordered women during pregnancy. See her podcast Life After Diets with Susie Orbach,

If you are expecting a child, and need compassionate help with your eating disorder, call us now
0845 838 2040