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The Eating Disorders Foundation estimates that 10 million American women are affected by eating disorders each year. Eating disorders are deadly mental health conditions that have far-reaching mental and physical effects. An unfortunate side-effect of eating disorders is that they can cause infertility and complications with pregnancy.

Here are some ways that eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia can affect the child-bearing process.

Before a Pregnancy

One of the primary ways that eating disorders can prevent fertility is due to amenorrhea (or absence of menstruation) experienced by women with eating disorders. About half of women with bulimia don’t have regular menstrual cycles, while most women with anorexia have irregular periods. Eating disorder behavior like excessive exercise and caloric restrictions, coupled with psychological stress associated with eating disorders can lead to irregular periods or a complete lack of menstruation.

During a Pregnancy

If individuals with anorexia or bulimia are able to become pregnant, there are many complications that can arise from struggling with an eating disorder during pregnancy. These can include miscarriage, preeclampsia, complications during labor, fetal growth problems, increased risk of needing a cesarean section, or even fetal death.

Following a Pregnancy

Following a pregnancy, women with eating disorders tend to have higher rates of postpartum depression. Postpartum depression has been shown to cause problems with breastfeeding.

Starting a family can be one of the most satisfying experiences imaginable. That’s why women with eating disorders who are trying to conceive a child, or have successfully conceived a child should seriously consider getting help in an anorexia and bulimia treatment program.

The good news is that eating disorders are treatable. Many women who have struggled to conceive with an eating disorder have been able to become fertile and have a healthy childbirth with the help of eating disorder treatment. At Rader Programs, we can help you work toward your goal of fertility and a healthy childbirth. Our multidisciplinary staff of doctors, dietitians, psychiatrists, psychologists and more can help you on your journey to fertility.

To read more about how eating disorders affect fertility, please visit our infertility page.