New research has found that one in fourteen women develop an eating disorder during the first 3 months of pregnancy. The University College of London surveyed over seven hundred pregnant women. They found that 25 percent were highly concerned about their weight and shape. Two percent reported fasting, exercising excessively, inducing vomiting and misusing diuretics or laxatives in an effort to avoid weight gain during pregnancy.
The National Institute for Health Research funded the study which also found that one in twelve pregnant women admitted overeating and losing control over the amounts and types of food eaten at least two times a week. There is strong evidence that eating disorders during pregnancy can affect both mother and developing child.
The authors suggest that there needs to be a greater awareness amongst antenatal health care professionals about eating disorders and their symptoms so that they can better identify and manage such disorders among their pregnant patients.
Researchers called for screening for eating disorders at the first antenatal check-up. This screening is vital due to the adverse effects eating disorders can have on mother and baby.
Many pregnant women have eating disorders and are not being diagnosed nor treated.
Women with eating disorders are more unlikely to disclose any symptoms to healthcare professionals. They may be afraid of some stigma or even fear that the healthcare professional will respond negatively.
Eating disorders can be masked by typical pregnancy symptoms. These symptoms include weight gain and vomiting.
It is estimated that about 1.4 million American women suffer from some sort of eating disorder. This amounts to four percent of the female population.
The study used a questionnaire that allowed the women to remain anonymous. The women answered questions about their eating habits during the six to twelve months prior to becoming pregnant. The questionnaire was given them during their first routine antenatal scan.
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