Bulimia and Pregnancy
According to the American Psychiatric Association, bulimia nervosa is one of the three main types of eating disorders, along with binge eating disorder and anorexia nervosa. While eating disorders most often develop in women between the ages of 12 and 35, they also affect millions of people at any given moment. Individuals who develop bulimia nervosa (as well as anorexia nervosa) tend to be highly critical of their bodies and themselves as a whole; often perfectionists, they tend to struggle with self esteem issues as well. Unfortunately, patients with eating disorders often deny the existence of an issue in its early stages. Furthermore, eating disorders often develop alongside the existence of other psychiatric issues including obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, as well as problems involving drugs and alcohol.
Bulimia Nervosa and Binges
While individuals with bulimia nervosa might vigorously exercise and diet often, they may be any size, often having weight fluctuations, people suffering from bulimia nervosa are generally not as underweight as those suffering from anorexia nervosa, restricting type. This is because patients with bulimia nervosa often binge eat, and may consume an incredible amount of food in a short period of time. Individuals suffering from bulimia nervosa can be anywhere from slightly underweight to obese, even if they vigorously exercise and frequently diet. This is due to the fact that people with bulimia nervosa tend to binge eat; during such a binge, he or she could consume a massive amount of food in a short span of time. Individuals may feel out of control during a binge eating session, and only stop if they are interrupted, fall asleep, or their stomach begins to hurt because it has been stretched far beyond its regular capacity. Such a binge session may be followed by feelings of shame and the use of a laxative or forceful vomiting, often because one is afraid of weight gain or is experiencing stomach pain. This cycle of binging followed by purging tends to happen many times a week, or sometimes even several times in a day.
Possible Signs of Bulimia Nervosa
Unfortunately, people often do not know if a loved one is suffering from bulimia nervosa because patients often hide their binges and do not end up excessively thin. Some bulimia related symptoms could include:
- Severe dehydration from the purging of fluids
- A sore throat that is chronically inflamed
- A puffy face and cheeks
- Salivary glands below the jaw and in the neck become swollen
- Gastroesophageal reflux disorder, caused by constant vomiting
- Intestinal issues caused by irritation from laxative abuse
- Teeth beginning to decay from exposure to stomach acids after their enamel wears off
- Kidney problems caused by the use of diuretics, or water pills
In rare cases, sufferers can also develop potentially fatal complications such as esophageal tears, gastric rupture, and cardiac arrhythmias.
Pregnancy and Bulimia Nervosa: Possible Risks
But what happens if someone is pregnant and suffering from bulimia concurrently? The National Eating Disorders Association says that dealing with an eating disorder while someone is pregnant comes with a host of risks for both the child and the parent. Risks for the child could include:
- Poor development
- Low birth weight
- Premature birth
- Respiratory distress
- Feeding difficulties
- Other perinatal issues
And the following could be risks for the parent:
- Poor nutrition
- Cardiac irregularities
- Chemical imbalances
- Severe depression during pregnancy
- Gestational diabetes
- Labor complications
- Difficulty nursing
- Postpartum depression
- Not gaining a sufficient amount of weight during pregnancy
What to Do if One is Pregnant and Suffering from Bulimia Nervosa
In fact, pregnancy may heighten many of the risks associated with bulimia nervosa. The National Eating Disorders Association suggests that if one is totally honest with their healthcare professionals, they should be able to address the correct pregnancy-specific needs. If someone is pregnant and concurrently dealing with disordered eating:
- Though it may be difficult, they should permit their health provider to weigh them. This is an important part of tracking the baby’s health. Furthermore, they can always request that their doctor does not tell them what their weight is.
- They should also consider enrolling in support groups as well as individual counseling not only during but after pregnancy; this can help them cope with any concerns (and fears) regarding body image, weight gain, food, and their new role as a parent.
- They may want to enroll in classes on parenting skills, childbirth, child development, and pregnancy in general.
- They should consider consulting a nutritionist who specializes in eating disorders; they can help them create a plan for healthy weight gain and eating.
- They may need extra appointments to keep close tabs on the baby’s development and growth.
- They should check with their doctor before enrolling in any prenatal workout classes.
If you or a loved one is experiencing bulimia nervosa or otherwise disordered eating, we are here to help at Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists. You may contact us via phone (866-525-2766), email, or by filling out our contact form.