4 things to know about a pregnancy eating disorder

Although pregorexia or pregnancy anorexia is rare, this is a real disorder that requires serious attention.

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Most women shudder at the thought of putting on massive amounts of weight during their pregnancy. Excessive weight gain not only means that you’ll frequently be asked if you’re carrying multiples, but also because all that baby weight is going to take forever to come off post-delivery.

The good news is that many pregnant mums-to-be make sure to gain weight healthily, by watching what they eat and staying active. However, there are a small number of women who tend to obsess over their weight gain. These women not only cut their food intake, claiming that it’s extra and unnecessary calories, they hit the gym compulsively.

“This could be a sign of pregorexia or anorexia in pregnancy, where women try to control or reduce weight gain during pregnancy by extreme dieting and at times, extreme exercising,” notes SmartParents expert Dr Christopher Chong, an obstetrician-gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital. “They act as if the pregnancy is not existent, at times keeping to themselves and trying to skip meals or doing extreme exercising and obsessive counting of calories.”

A pregorexic mother has a high chance of giving birth to a baby with underdeveloped organs and lifelong health problems.

In the UK, 7.6 per cent of pregnant women in a study displayed symptoms of an eating disorder. That said, Dr Chong has never treated a patient with pregorexia in his decades-long career as a gynae in Singapore. Still, he keeps a lookout for this condition, which can have serious effects on both mummy and baby.

A pregorexic mother has a high chance of giving birth to a baby with underdeveloped organs and lifelong health problems. In some cases, the foetus can also end up dying in the womb from lack of nutrition.  

So, if Dr Chong has the slightest inclination that his patient might be heading down that road, he will gently advise them about the need for proper nutrition and a healthy weight gain for a good pregnancy.

“I will also involve the family, especially the spouse and suggest joining pregnancy groups, so she can share her pregnancy experiences and learn healthy pregnancy practices,” adds Dr Chong.

While rare, pregorexia is a body image disorder that can have harmful consequences for both mummy and baby. Here are four facts to know about this pregnancy health issue that has potentially harmful side effects.