Anorexia among pregnant women (pregorexia) rises in Canada

A recent poll showed that today in Canada almost 90% of women and girls are unhappy with the way they look. In particular, pregnant women who are being hospitalized for disordered eating (pregorexia.)

Anorexia, a mental illness which is the abnormal obsession of staying thin and not gaining weight is deadly. Psychological and social factors can both contribute to the eating disorder. Another documented eating disorder which has been mentioned on the Victorian – Recovery blog has received the attention of the health community in the past few years. Pregorexia, is not a technical term for a medical diagnosis but the stigma is the same for women who are carrying babies and are trying to stay thin.

Pregorexia has the same basic symptoms and risk factors as anorexia. The only difficulty is that there is another life involved that depends upon the mother’s nutritional and food intake. According to a CBS News report in August 2008, pregnant moms should expect to gain between 25 to 35 pounds by the time the pregnancy comes to term after nine months. Over the years popular celebrity’s like Angelina Jolie, Kate Hudson, Nicole Richie, Katie Holmes and Jessica Simpson have had babies and lost weight rapidly after giving birth. Unlike the majority of the public, celebrities can afford childcare and personal trainers to simply focus on losing weight, but the headlines of magazines praising celebrities for losing so fast post pregnancy may contribute to the vast rise in disordered eating among pregnant women.

Experts say it’s difficult to determine how common eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are among pregnant women because those types of statistics are rarely shared due to privacy concerns. However, according to a 2007-2009 Health Canada survey, 6% of Canadian women between six and 79 years old reported suffering from at least one form of eating disorder. In 2009-2010, there were 5,282 hospitalizations related to eating disorders, more than 90% of the patients were women. Some experts believe unrealistic body images in the media and a celebrity culture have led more women to try to stay thin during pregnancy so they can shed their weight immediately after childbirth.

“Before, pregnancy might have been seen as an opportunity to relax into one’s body and to experience one’s body as it naturally grows,” said Merryl Bear, the director of the non-profit National Eating Disorder Information Centre in Toronto, Canada.

“But there are more challenges to a pregnant woman’s self-perception that are exacerbated by the images and the stories of celebrities who get pregnant, have their babies, and throughout the process just have their pre-pregnancy body with a bump,” she said.
Dr. Blake Woodside, head of Canada’s largest eating disorders treatment program at Toronto General Hospital, said cases of pregorexia used to be rare.

Woodside says, “Our society has become fatophobic and fat discriminatory, even when it relates to Doctors say starving pregnant women are more likely to develop a number of health problems as are their babies. The journal Canadian Family Physician warns that women who are anorexic during pregnancy have babies with lower Apgar scores and lower birth weights. The Apgar score assesses the general physical condition of a newborn. Other complications associated with pregorexia include depression, anemia, hypertension, miscarriage and premature labor.

*Note: Pregorexia is an eating disorder that occurs during pregnancy. Equal to other eating disorders the issues surrounding eating disorders do not simply involve eating and an obsession with weight, often other issues that go with it. An eating disorder is not about vanity. Mothers suffering from an eating disorder most likely have prior psychological issues that were triggered by the emotional changes that come with pregnancy. Pregorexia is their way of coping.

If you or someone you know is struggling with pregorexia please reach out for treatment immediately. This disease is deadly to both the mother and unborn child. We are waiting to help:888.268.9182

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