155,158 registered members
Anorexia link to unplanned pregnancies
[Posted: Thu 04/08/2011 by Deborah Condon www.irishhealth.com]
While eating disorders, such as anorexia, have long been thought to adversely affect a woman's fertility, a new study suggests that women who have suffered from such disorders may actually underestimate their chances of conception, increasing their risk of having an unplanned pregnancy.
Eating disorders are thought to adversely affect fertility because they can disrupt a woman's normal menstrual cycle and even prevent ovulation, which is essential for becoming pregnant. However little research has been carried out in this area.
A UK team looked at over 11,000 pregnant women, 4% of whom had suffered from anorexia, bulimia or both conditions at some stage in their life. The women filled out detailed questionnaires when they were between 12 and 18 weeks pregnant.
The researchers found that almost 40% of women with a history of eating disorders took longer than six months to conceive a baby, compared to 25% of women without eating disorders.
However, those who had suffered an eating disorder in the past were no more likely to take longer than one year to conceive a baby than their peers without eating disorders. Although women with the disorders were more than twice as likely to have received some sort of fertility treatment to help them get pregnant.
The study also found that those who had suffered from anorexia were much more likely to report that their pregnancy had been unplanned. In fact, at least four in 10 said their pregnancy was a surprise, compared to just over one in four women in the general population.
"This research highlights that there are risks to fertility associated with eating disorders. However, the high rates of unplanned pregnancies in women with a history of anorexia suggest that women may be underestimating their chances of conceiving," commented lead researcher, Abigail Easter, of King's College London.
Meanwhile, the study also noted that while most women were happy about their pregnancies, those with eating disorders were more likely to display negative feelings, with almost 10% stating that they were unhappy with their pregnancy, compared to less than 4% of their peers.
"Pregnancy can be a difficult time for women with eating disorders and this is the first time feelings about pregnancy have been looked at amongst this group of women. Women planning a pregnancy should ideally seek treatment for their eating disorder symptoms prior to conception and health professionals should be aware of eating disorders when assessing fertility and providing treatment for this," Ms Easter commented.
Details of these findings are published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
|To join the discussion, register by clicking here|