Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can affect fertility

Most women at various times in our lives struggle to accept our bodies, and even engage in various diets. However, for a small percentage of women (and even men), body dissatisfaction can lead to serious eating problems such as bingeing and purging (Bulimia) or extreme food restriction (Anorexia). Excessive exercise is also common. There are a range of serious health consequences associated Anorexia or Bulimia, including problems with reproductive health.

In part, eating disorders affect women’s fertility by causing changes in a woman’s weight. For example, the extreme weight loss associated with Anorexia often causes a woman’s period to stop (known as “amenorrhea”). Also, when the percentage of body fat falls below a certain level, a woman’s body no longer produces the levels of hormones required to stimulate ovulation – making it impossible for her to get pregnant. Irregular menstrual cycles and higher risk for spontaneous abortion may be experienced by women with Bulimia. The good news is that once they recover from these eating disorders and are back to a healthy weight, most women will experience the return of their menstrual cycle and regular ovulation.

At the other end of the weight spectrum are women who frequently overeat to excess and as a consequence are obese. Women who are obese frequently experience irregularities of their menstrual cycles. And when they are able to get pregnant, there are higher rates of miscarriage among obese women.

If you think you may have an eating disorder and are concerned about your fertility, consult with your doctor. A mental health professional who specializes in eating disorders can also assist you in sorting out your relationship with food and getting to a weight and lifestyle that is healthy for you. 

Read one woman’s story of how her fertility was affected by anorexia for over 10 years, and how her desire to become a mother helped her to recover:

‘I want a baby more than I want to be thin’ [The Telegraph Online]

For more information about eating disorders, click here. Read an article about eating disorders, fertility, and pregnancy on The National Eating Disorder Information Centre’s website here.

Read more about the relationship between weight and fertility here, here, and here.

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