Pregnancy a Possible Trigger for Binge Eating
> 5/22/2008 2:06:00 PM


Pregnancy comes with many natural and healthy changes in eating behavior, and for women who previously struggled with binge eating disorder (BED), the compulsive urge to overeat often goes into remission during this time. However, the eating changes brought on by pregnancy are not all positive. Many women who had not previously binged often develop BED while pregnant.

All eating disorders—anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating without purging (BED), and purging without bingeing— tend to go into remission when a woman becomes pregnant, but a high number of new BED cases occur in pregnant women, and many of these women come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The economic status of these soon-to-be mothers indicates why pregnancy sometimes acts as a catalyst for an eating disorder. The anxiety of bearing a child may combine with economic stress to trigger disordered eating, and bingeing may be a common result. Overeating often serves as a way to gain temporary relief from negative feelings. This tactic does not lead to happiness, however, and it can lead to lingering health problems.

Overeating during pregnancy can cause significant harm for both new moms and their babies. Women who gain more weight than is recommended during pregnancy have a higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, and other health conditions associated with obesity, and unhealthy weight gain during pregnancy can also result in dangerous complications for their babies. The children of obese women are about twice as likely to end up in neonatal intensive care units and face higher risks of neural tube defects. These defects can result in a miscarriage or lead to difficult life outcomes like the paralysis of spina bifida.

The extreme eating habits of pregnant women can affect their children, and some researchers suggest that in addition to birth defects, subtle changes may take place in the bodies of babies fed with fluctuating levels of nutrients. It’s important that pregnant women know of the risks associated with obesity and binge eating during pregnancy and remain aware of their eating habits. Binge eating alone can be treated, but pregnancy is a time when the stakes of the health complications are raised, so it's important to seek help if binge eating is even considered an issue.

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