Having an eating disorder is one of the reasons that I thought I might never become pregnant. And it’s true that if someone restricts or binges & purges long enough, they can cause irreversible damage to their fertility. I thought I was going to be one of those statistics.
“Having an Eating Disorder can increase your chances of never being able to get pregnant, and the longer you have an Eating Disorder, the higher the risk that you will face some type of fertility problems.” [Source]
But here I am, unexpectedly expecting so I guess I am not one of those. However, that doesn’t mean that I am immune to some challenges that I’ll have to face during and after this pregnancy because I have an eating disorder.
I was in a treatment center, an outpatient group and still see a therapist and dietitian. There is hope that people can recover completely from EDs, but that usually takes upwards of 7 years. I did gain back weight to a healthier level, but there are still thoughts that come crashing through my head when I least expect it. Okay, sometimes I expect them as well. (Stressful times trigger them.)
I told my midwife at my very first visit that I struggled with anorexia for years. I very clearly told them that I did not want to be told my weight. I don’t know my exact weight and don’t want to know it. I know my brain, knowing that number would probably upset me at this point in my life. I told my midwife that all I wanted to know was if my weight gain was on track or not.
Sometimes women who are pregnant do not tell their doctors that they have struggled with an eating disorder in the past. This isn’t information that should be held back! All women are at heightened sensitivity about their changing bodies during pregnancy, but this can spur a relapse in the ED. Please, make sure your whole team knows about your past if you are in this situation!
So they haven’t told me any specific numbers. But at my last appointment, she did mention that I hadn’t gained anything during the first trimester and that was probably due to being sick so much. She wasn’t concerned about that and said “we’ll make it up during the second trimester.” My husband was a little upset to even have that much mentioned to me. I guess I can see his point of view, but I do need to know if something isn’t on track as well.
But the eating disordered side of my brain heard what she said… and it was PROUD.
There are times where I think I might feel hungry, but I’m not entirely sure. It becomes a whole battle inside my head. (I envision it like some kind of chaotic mess out of Medieval Times or something, a big battle going on and everyone’s swinging, but after a while they all get so tired that nobody even knows what to do anymore.) And usually I end up feeling really queasy after a while, which is an indicator that I probably was hungry but then it becomes nearly impossible to choke something down.
My changing body is doing nothing for my self-esteem. My body image is dropping lower each day. Lots of women seem to enjoy this part, but I hate the way my chest has changed. The slight rounding on my tummy isn’t adorable to me, it’s just scary. Pregnancy has given me crummy acne and every one of those zits leaves behind a dark spot. I feel… well, homely.
Beyond pregnancy, I’m scared how I will react. I am planning to breastfeed, so I know I’ll have to eat even more to support both of us. I think my greatest fear lies within weaning, once I’m no longer responsible for supporting two people with my body, I fear the urge to restrict to an extreme will be back extremely strong.
“60 to 70 percent of eating-disorder patients experience remission during pregnancy. While the actual pregnancy can aggravate an eating disorder, the postpartum period can compound its intensity.” [Source]
We don’t plan on finding out the gender of the baby, but there is a part of me that feels like it’s a girl. (And kind of hopes that it’s a girl… but those are stories for another day.) But if it’s a girl, that also terrifies me.
“A woman with a sister or mother who has anorexia is 12 times more likely to develop anorexia nervosa and four times more likely to develop bulimia nervosa.” [Source]
People tell me to go ahead and eat whatever because I’m pregnant. But that won’t be the case after the baby is born.
“Dr. Diana Dell of Duke University adds that when these women were pregnant, society said it was OK for them to eat more and gain weight. “Once the baby is out, that cultural protection is gone. Plus, there is cultural pressure to regain the previous level of thinness,” notes Dell. Just think of all the post-baby photos of any celebrity who has recently given birth. Do they ever look like they’re even wearing maternity clothes a few months postpartum? For most women, it takes a while—sometimes up to nine months or longer—to lose all of their pregnancy weight.” [Source]
The fact that I can recognize these thoughts is good, it means that I’m much further along in recovery than I give myself credit at times. And I share these thoughts with the general public to not only educate people that this is a stressful time and many women do fall back into ED patterns because of pregnancy (most after pregnancy), but also as a way of letting people know that I may be fragile at times… and I need to remember to keep my lines of communication open. The support of family and friends is always essential in life, but when there is pain it becomes even more necessary. And those tend to be the times when I block it out the most. So I’m trying to remind myself that I do have a support network, I just need to use them!