Eating Disorders and Getting Pregnant


eating disorders getting pregnantIs it possible that your “unexplained infertility” is because of an eating disorder? Getting pregnant takes about a year on average, but if you have an eating disorder such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa, your fertility will be affected.

Here’s what research from the University of Helsinki says about eating disorders and getting pregnant:

Women with eating disorders are less likely to have children than others in the same age group, indicates a study conducted at the University of Helsinki, Finland. The likelihood for miscarriage was more than triple for binge-eating disorder (BED) sufferers and the likelihood of abortion more than double for bulimics than others in the same age group.

According to a Finnish study, women with eating disorders are less likely to have children than others in their age group. The discrepancy is the most apparent in anorexia sufferers. In this group, the number of pregnancies was less than half of that of the control group.

The likelihood of abortion was more than double for bulimics than for others in the same age group. Meanwhile, the likelihood for miscarriage was more than triple for binge-eating disorder (BED) sufferers. For women who had been in treatment for BED, nearly half of their pregnancies ended in miscarriage.

Eating Disorders and Getting Pregnant

“Early recognition, effective care and sufficiently long follow-up periods for eating disorders are crucial in the prevention of reproductive health problems,” states researcher Milla Linna from the University of Helsinki, Hjelt Institute.

Eating disorders are common in Western countries, particularly among girls and young women. It has been estimated that 5–10% of all young women in developed countries suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their lives. This puts getting pregnant into a different light.

How the study about eating disorders and getting pregnant was conducted. The University of Helsinki and the National Institute for Health and Welfare joined together to conduct a 15-year register-based study about eating disorders and getting pregnant. examined the reproductive health of patients treated at the eating disorder clinic of the Helsinki University Central Hospital in 1995–2010 and a control group. Members of the control group were of the same age and gender and from the same region as the patients. More than 11,000 women participated in the study, of which 2,257 were patients of the eating disorder clinic and 9,028 were control group members.

If you’re not worried about an eating disorder, read Food and Fertility – The Effect of Carbs, Fats, Proteins, and Dairy.

Possible reasons fertility is affected by an eating disorder. “This study does not provide an explanation for the reproductive health  problems observed in women with eating disorders. Based on previous research, however, it seems likely that the problems can at least partially be attributed to the eating disorder. Both being underweight and obese are known to be associated with the increased risk of infertility and miscarriage. Eating disorders also often involve menstrual irregularities or the absence of menstruation, which may lead to neglecting contraception and ultimately to unwanted pregnancies,” hypothesises Linna.

A follow-up study on eating disorders and getting pregnant is currently underway, focusing on the course of the pregnancies and deliveries of women who have had eating disorders.



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If you’re struggling with an eating disorder – whether or not you want to get pregnant – being honest, open, and vulnerable may be the most difficult thing you ever do. And it’s the most important! I struggle with an eating disorder, and I make it worse by not talking about it. I pretend it doesn’t exist, and that gives it strength.

Tell me about your eating disorder in the comments below. Be anonymous, and share everything you know. I can almost guarantee you’ll feel better if you write about it, talk about it, and share it.

If you’re scared you’ll never get pregnant because of your eating disorder, read How to Overcome Fear You’ll Never Conceive a Baby.

This is from  a press release from the University of Helsinki, called Eating disorders often associated with reproductive health problems. The study about eating disorders and getting pregnant was published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

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