Scary new trend: Almost half of all pregnant women may suffer from eating disorders

In a new survey by SELF magazine and our parent site, a scary new statistic has been revealed: although only 10 percent of women surveyed have previously been diagnosed with an eating disorder, 48 percent of women confessed to engaging in disordered-eating behaviors during their pregnancy, which can include anything from restricting calories, overexercising, and even fasting or using diet pills.

I honestly can't imagine a more terrifying trend. Has our obsession with being thin really ended up with women being criticized for their pregnancy weight so much that now 52 percent of women are more insecure about their body image while pregnant and a full 70 percent are worried about weight gain? I have to admit: As horrified I am by this trend, I'm a bit concerned that I will feel this way, too.


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My history of weight loss is up and down, too. Although I've never had an eating disorder, I've definitely done bad-for-you things like diet pills and considered purging after a particularly bad binge. I'm pretty happy with my body at the moment, but for someone who has lost and gained and lost again over 300 pounds throughout my life, how can I not be worried about the weight gained during pregnancy?

Although I'm a firm believer that women are allowed to gain weight during their pregnancies, I can understand where these women are coming from. Sometimes you just don't know how you will feel until you get there. And those feelings can be quite overwhelming, as Ovidio Bermudez, M.D., chief medical officer and medical director of child and adolescent services at the Eating Recovery Center in Denver, explains:

Some women with a history of severe eating disorders, although they are a small minority, become so unhappy with what their pregnancy is doing to their body that they intentionally try to sabotage it, beating on their stomach with their fists. That's how overwhelming their feelings can be.

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The sad truth, though, is that the pregnant women who are so overwhelmed by their body image and weight gain concerns during pregnancy could actually be increasing their weight "because trying to restrict what you eat can lead to bingeing." Plus, what about damage to your baby? Anna Maria Siegia-Riz, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, explains that "gaining too much or too little during pregnancy is unhealthy and can cause problems later on for the mother and child."

I'm definitely concerned about this trend, both for myself and for all of my fellow women who may suffer from disordered eating behavior during their pregnancies. I hope that doctors can figure out a way to prevent this or that society will screw their heads on right and stop accusing pregnant women of being "fat" before this problem escalates even further.

Have you ever felt bad about your body or done something to restrict calories while pregnant? Share with us in the comments below!

Image via Thinkstock

Topics: early pregnancy  first pregnancy  pregnancy statistics  what to eat during pregnancy