Disordered Eating in Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be the most amazing time of an individual’s life. A time of bringing new life into the world and experiencing the baby’s heartbeat for the first time, their first kick and learning their gender can be the most amazing moments of parenthood. Pregnancy can also be a terrifying time, when women become more aware of their changing body with every pound they gain. Weight gain is necessary in pregnancy and with weight gain can potentially come stretch marks, pregnancy associate skin rashes, larger breasts and swollen feet; but these are normal in pregnancy, after all you are carrying and nurturing a tiny human. According to healthcare professionals, women who are average weight before pregnancy should gain 25 to 35 pounds during their pregnancy. Underweight women should gain 28 to 40 pounds and overweight women may need to gain 15 to 25 pounds during pregnancy. Although weight gain in pregnancy is normal and necessary, a rise in body image disturbances coupled with the pressure from society to stay skinny has resulted in a term known as “pregorexia”.

What is pregorexia?

Although not recognized as a clinical eating disorder by experts and professionals in the industry, the term “pregorexia” was coined by society and refers to a woman’s drive to control pregnancy weight gain through extreme dieting and exercise, potentially resulting in eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa. A rise in the obsession with looking fit during pregnancy has risen due to the widespread increase of images of pregnant women with six-pack abs on top of their baby bump on social media sites. This drive for the perfectly toned body among Hollywood stars and social media has resulted in an increase in body dissatisfaction during pregnancy, potentially resulting in harm to both the mother and baby. It has become a public phenomenon to follow celebrity pregnancies and watch how much or how little weight they gain. In fact studies have shown that between 2003 and 2005, the number of baby weight-related covers on tabloids doubled and since then, it’s almost become an expectation now that if a celebrity is pregnant, there will be a mention of her body during pregnancy and then there’s the countdown to how fast she’s going to get the weight off.


Approximately 30 percent of pregnant females in the United States do not gain enough weight in pregnancy. Participating in unhealthy behaviors to prevent weight gain or induce weight loss in pregnancy can result in many complications such as miscarriage, nutritional deficits in the baby leading to chronic complications, preterm labor and small for gestational age.

Warning signs associated with pregorexia

Pregorexia, like well-established eating disorders often present with many warning signs that may be overlooked or ignored. It is important to learn and recognize warning signs associated with pregorexia in order to seek treatment before it may be too late. The following are known warning signs that may be seen in women who are purposely trying to lose weight or prevent weigh gain in pregnancy:

  • Talking about the pregnancy as if it weren’t real
  • Heavily focusing on calorie counts
  • Eating alone or skipping meals
  • Exercising excessively
  • Past history of eating disorders
  • Refusing to wear maternity clothes because of body shape

Treatment for pregorexia

Pregorexia, like any other established eating disorder, should be recognized and treated immediately by a seasoned team of professionals who have experience in treating eating disorders. Psychotherapy approaches are the mainstay of treatment and work to recognize the underlying triggers associated with this unhealthy behavior. Nutrition and dietary counseling is also provided as well as workshops to establish positive coping mechanisms. Prenatal care should be established and continued throughout the pregnancy and depending on the severity of the disordered eating pattern, a referral to a high-risk obstetrician may be necessary.

We’re Here for You

If you are struggling or someone you know is struggling, we are here for you. Center for Discovery’s Treatment Centers specialize in treatment for eating disorders, mental health and dual diagnosis treatment with unique treatment programs for every individual to get them on their way to eating disorder recovery.

For more information, resources, or to consult with one of our specialists, call 855.514.0920

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