Body Image Issues and Pregnancy

For those who know someone who is suffering from an eating disorder, you also know how hard it is to confront and deal with the issue. Sadly, family and friends are forced to stand at a distance and watch as destructive behaviors drain life and self-confidence out of the one they care so much about. Perhaps you yourself are dealing with an eating disorder and want to have a baby. It is possible to conceive?

Eating Disorders and Fertility

Marlene Clark, who is a registered dietician specializing in eating disorders at Cedars Sinai Medical Center and who has co-authored a book called Carrying a Little Extra: A guide to Healthy Pregnancy for the Plus-Size woman, says that, "eating disorders can effect a woman's fertility, but the desire to become pregnant is so powerful that many women can overcome their problem - at least long enough to conceive and carry a pregnancy to term. But, it's important to work with your doctor to address the problem and become healthy enough to get pregnant."

Anorexia & Bulimia

Anorexia, when a person controls food intake to the point of near-starvation, and bulimia, the purging through vomiting in order to rid the body of calories, are the two most common eating disorders. Anorexics and bulimics generally abuse their bodies with over exercise, laxatives and diuretics as well in a bid to control their weight. It is not unusual to have an overlap in these conditions.

Body Fat Is Vitally Important

In order to conceive it is mandatory that a woman have a certain percentage of body fat. Body fat controls the onset of menstruation as well as the monthly cycles and once menstruation begins, fat dependency by the body begins as well. Dieting usually results in fat loss and if the loss is extreme, the body will do whatever it can to conserve energy. "Someone who is severely anorexic doesn't have enough body fat to support their own needs through the calories they're eating. The body recognizes that a pregnancy can't be supported, and ceases to menstruate because that's not a necessary function," says Clark.

Male Fertility and Anorexia

Anorexia is not only found in women. Many men suffer with the illness as well. Men experience a very similar effect upon their fertility when they drop an extreme amount of body fat as well. Dr. Jack Katz, chairman of the department of psychiatry at North Shore University Hospital at Manhasset says, "In males who are anorective, the analog to the cessation of menses is their sperm count drops once their weight gets below 15 to 20 percent of body fat. This causes their fertility to drop substantially. Once they gain weight, they can become fertile."

Bulimia and Pregnancy

This is not the case with bulimia. A woman who can maintain a normal weight may ovulate and quite possibly become pregnant, but maintaining the pregnancy may be difficult. Neither eating disorder is a healthy situation for a woman, and especially not for a pregnancy.

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