UK & World News
Mums-To-Be 'Risking Dangers' To Stay Slim
Experts are calling for better detection of eating disorders among pregnant women over fears the number of mums-to-be resorting to dangerous methods to stay slim could be increasing.
The condition, dubbed by some as 'pregorexia', can affect women who have never before suffered with an eating disorder, as well as those who have battled anorexia or bulimia in the past.
A study for the National Institute of Health Research of 739 women attending their first ultrasound scan found one in 13 had an eating disorder.
One of the psychiatrists behind the research, Dr Nadia Micali, said sufferers do not tend to admit they have a problem for fear of being stigmatised or having their babies taken into care.
She wants to see changes in the way the issue is tackled.
"Many healthcare professionals are not aware of eating disorders and certainly I believe that we should improve our efforts at detecting eating disorders in pregnancy."
Some sufferers resort to extreme methods such as food restriction, over-exercising, using laxatives and self-induced vomiting.
Mother-of-two Christina Kelly, from Bradford, had anorexia during both of her pregnancies after having suffered from the illness for a number of years.
"The thoughts I would get when confronted with food would be "You are fat', "You are not allowed it", "You are shameful and disgusting".
Her children suffered growth problems in the womb and had to be induced early.
"The guilt I experienced was incredible and the support I received at the specialist unit was essential during my pregnancy."
Consultant obstetrician Dr Pat O'Brien, from University College London Hospital, warned about the effects of eating disorders.
"There is an increased risk of miscarriage in the early part of pregnancy, there's also increased risk of poor growth of the baby, so the baby doesn't get enough nutrition and therefore doesn't grow very well, and for that reason might have to be delivered early."
There is a belief that factors such as media scrutiny of high-profile pregnancies can also create unrealistic pressure on women, something Dr O'Brien said is unfair.
"The body is made to gain weight during pregnancy partly for the health of the woman but also to deposit some stores there that will feed the baby if the woman's breast-feeding afterwards. A good rule of thumb is that if it's taken you nine months to gain this weight, it often takes nine months to lose it."
The charity B-eat said eating disorders are treatable and recovery is possible.
Chief executive Susan Ringwood said: "Everyone we speak to who has recovered says how grateful they were that someone noticed, spoke to them and felt they were worth helping, even if at the time their reaction gave a different impression."
:: Anyone worried about their eating habits should see their GP or midwife. B-eat also has a range of support services.