Having a baby after an eating disorder?

(Putting a little trigger warning here to say that this will mention eating disorders)

Hi everyone.

I want to preface this by saying I’m not pregnant or TTC, nor anywhere near ready to have a baby. In fact for a long time, I didn’t think I wanted kids but now I’m beginning to think I do.

The problem? I have an eating disorder and haven’t had my period for two years and there is a chance that the eating disorder will have affected my fertility long term. The thought of that is really getting me down and I have this fear that I won’t ever be able to get pregnant or carry a baby.

The second problem is that I’m worried that if I do get pregnant, I wouldn’t be able to handle the body changes and it might well trigger eating disorder behaviours and really set me back.

Maybe I’m overthinking. As i say, I’m nowhere near getting pregnant so it’s not really a pressing issue but I guess it’s just on my mind.

Does anyone have any reassurance or experience of this? No need to share if it’s too personal :heart::heart:

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I battled an eating disorder from age 13-17/18. I lost my period for a few months during that time but was able to get it back. I had lingering body dysmorphia into my early twenties.
I had those same thoughts of wanting kids but also always being terrified of getting pregnant in the back of my mind because I didn’t know if I could stand to feel “out of control” of my body.
I was in my early thirties when I got pregnant and even right before that I still questioned how I would react.

I know this is probably different for everyone but I can tell you that from my experience it was nothing like I thought it would be.
Once I was pregnant it was like my instincts just took over and even though my body was changing and I couldn’t control it, it wasn’t about me anymore. It was about the two little miracles that I was carrying.

And believe me, having twins made me think the absolute worst at first as far as what would happen to my body and the aftermath that it might cause.
But what really happened is that I gained a new appreciation for my body and how absolutely awesome it is.
I have more confidence now after having kids than I ever did before.
Again, I know that everyone is different but being pregnant did not trigger me the way I thought it would.

If you have concerns it would be good to talk with a doctor that you trust about your particular situation. Our bodies are amazing in the way they are made to heal themselves with time.
There is definitely much hope. :blush:

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Not ever having had an eating disorder, I cannot comment of that, but female survivors of the Holocaust would certainly have faced many of your issues. Many of them went on to have healthy babies. So, it is certainly possible for you to have a healthy baby. Could you talk with a counsellor about your issues as well as your doctor.

Not had an ed, but a close friend did for many years and she went on to have 2 amazing healthy children. She didn’t regress at all, but every situation is different of course. I would recommend talking to your medical support networks but all the best!

I haven’t experienced ED, though I’ve definitely had patterns of disordered eating over the years.

I think you obviously understand a focus on yourself and your own healing (mental and physical) is paramount/top priority.

When you heal your body, you likely should not just go back to a way of eating you might have ascribed to well before your ED patterns (if that would even be possible for you in the first place). I believe in the menstrual cycle as a “fifth vital sign” (keywords to look for) and that any problems and abnormalities in cycle (whether full-blown amenorrhea as you’re describing or even something as commonplace as cramping) are serious indications of our overall health and wellbeing on a whole-body level. Nourishing your cycle through fertility-rich foods will not only give you the best chances of fertility for the function of having a baby in the future, but the best chances of whole-body health (again, mental and physical). In other words, the menstrual cycle doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We aren’t just supposed to be men who ovulate and bleed and that’s all that is different. Our entire bodies regulate around our hormonal systems and getting that in balance helps us be our best selves whether the goal is ever to have a child (now or in the future).

Although I said healing should be top priority, and I believe it to be, I think there is often a trap in that some people start to take it to the extreme and feel like “well if I’m not 100% better, I don’t deserve to bring a child into this world.” And I think that is a dangerous line of thinking, too. I think that getting to a “good place” should ideally be the prerequisite (sometimes we can’t control even that), but that 1. Expecting ourselves to be perfect is just wholly unrealistic in the first place and 2. There is healing in new experiences, too. Having children gives us new triggers for past experiences and traumas. Sometimes we anticipate them accurately and they might be predictable (as you say, some dysmorphia might be expected with the changes during and after pregnancy for you based on your past/present), but oftentimes they are not what we were expecting. I have been able to do better healing from my own “stuff” in the context of being a parent than I would have been able to as a single person through these same years. I just wasn’t seeing from the same lens. Being a parent has made me a better person and has also made me reflect more deeply about where exactly these wounds come from. [name_m]Even[/name_m] though I was in therapy for years before having children and was truly in a good place for what life as a single woman and as a married woman without children could be… there were still things below the surface I couldn’t even hope to come to terms with without actually taking this leap into parenthood. I wholly believe that.

So whether parenthood is in your future or not, focusing on the logistics of healing is absolutely important, but so is not letting your present get in the way of your future and the new experiences that might help you see your present self in a different light and be able to heal even more, even though more life experiences can often make things feel even more complicated.

Lastly from the anecdotal angle, a good friend of mine suffered from ED for several years and went on to have two beautiful and amazing children.

I also appreciated the recent character arc of pregnancy for a recovering woman with a history of ED on the American series This Is Us. All TV portrayals can be problematic but it might be something you’re interested in looking into. That show in general does some work on body image from many angles.

Best wishes and feel free to reach out again (topic or privately) anytime!

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I’m not pregnant or trying to conceive ANY time soon (I’m 15) but my mom got pregnant after not having her period for years because of stress and not eating. I’m also recovering from an ED which caused me to stop menstruating for a long time but now I am so I think it’s possible!

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During my teen years I was in an abusive relationship with a man 4 years older than me it was very abusive as a result in order to control something in my life I controlled my eating went days without eating. I ended up with an eating disorder my periods stopped and I became severely underweight. After receiving help from a domestic abuse charity I left him and regained control of my life I started gaining weight with my periods returning. I am now pregnant due next week with my first child it’s been hard watching my body change, not being able to fit into my usual clothes as I get a lot of confidence from being able to dress the way I want but I have followed a regime only gained a stone which has made me feel more positive. Hopefully this demonstrates that you can do it despite previously suffering from ED

Good luck with everything now & in the future :heart:

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@whatchamacallit thank you so much for sharing your experience-that’s a real comfort to hear

@asherose thank you -that’s a really good point :heart:

@HonoriaGlossop thank you - that’s really reassuring

@hyacinthbucket Thank you for such a detailed and thought provoking repsonse. That’s a good way to look at periods, healing and my body and I’m definitely going to take all that into consideration. Thanks again, thats been so helpful

@springawakening thank you for sharing -that’s really reassuring :heart:

@tori101 thank you so much for sharing that - that’s really helped :heart:

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I don’t have personal experience, but I wanted to mention Youtuber [name_f]Anna[/name_f] Saccone-Joly has become very open about her ED recovery. She now has 4 kids. I can’t remember the whole story but she has videos talking about it if you want to check her out!

Honestly, I think the fact that you have posted about this is already one huge step into recognising you are going to one day be an amazing mum. Usually expression of our problems/fears/anxieties is halfway there. I think as others have said, pregnancy will most probably not act as a catalyst for this because it’s a journey beyond yourself if that makes sense, you are suddenly hyper aware that you are responsible for another human being.

My graduate school classmate did almost all of her assignments (research project, literature reviews, etc) on pregnancy and eating disorders.

Even though I observed all her presentations, I’ll admit that I don’t know too much about it. But I did a quick search through her FB (she shares a ton of articles) and found these. I hope they are helpful!!

2 from an “eating disorder hope” blog - Here and here

And an article on “7 helpful tips” for folks in this situation - Here

@northernlights thank you - I didn’t know that but I’ll look into her videos

@anon25197097 thank you :heart:

@Elle1 thank you so much for these articles. I’ll definitely check them out

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My eating disorder never affected my cycle and my miscarriages are, as far as I know, unrelated to disordered eating patterns. But I wanted to touch base with you on the second bit.
I’ve been up and down in weight my entire life thanks to the cycle of binging and purging, I’ve watched my body change so many times, and right now I’m around the lowest weight I’ve been in my adult life. Part of me is terrified to get pregnant and gain weight. Another change to my body that I already don’t feel is mine and don’t feel comfortable in. I’ve paid for cosmetic procedure, plastic surgery and any number of snake oil schemes that promises me my dream body.
I’ve been pregnant 5 times and during my pregnancies, I’ve felt even more out of place in my body, constantly feeling ill, bloated, puffy, gross, and that’s only within the first trimester. Going into another pregnancy with body dysmorphia is a scary thought to me and I think it’s incredibly important to do the head-work, get yourself as healthy as possible mentally, before taking on a pregnancy. It’s a huge reason we put TTC on hold the last two years, and part of the reason we may decide to go the surrogacy route. Not out of vanity but to protect my mental health, the anxiety and fear over another loss, mixed with the eating disorder behaviours I still fight, make me question my ability to mentally cope with another pregnancy, successful or not.
I can’t offer a lot of advice, because I’m still finding my footing myself, but you aren’t alone if that helps. I don’t necessarily believed in full recovery from an eating disorder, but I do believe you can find healthy patterns and coping mechanisms on the worst days, and that weekly visits with your health supports during a pregnancy would be essential to ensure the best for you and your future pregnancies :two_hearts:

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@kibby thank you so much for sharing this and being so honest. I can definitely relate to the binging and purging and my body constantly changing and I can imagine feeling out of place in my body -I do even now that I’m weight restoring. There’s definitely a lot to ponder here and I can totally understand going down the surrogacy route. Thanks again for sharing :heart:

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[name_m]Hi[/name_m] @Greyblue :slight_smile: I know this thread is over a year old; I hope it’s okay to revive it and I also hope that the last year has been better for you! It was really brave of you to post this and I’m grateful because I have had similar struggles and am just starting to dare to come out of the woodwork and start talking to people.

I have had disordered eating for most of my life for various reasons. In my 20s I tried many different ways of eating to try to improve my health and get pregnant but I had no idea how bad my health and well-being actually were. Without delving into it, I’ll just say my life has been tragic. I have always been on the eat-less end of things and over my 20s my periods became extremely debilitating. Very painful and very heavy. I hurt my stomach many times because of all the painkillers I had to take and doctors frequently failed me by not caring about my health or looking into the root causes of my problems. I really would love to talk out rightly about my struggle with miscarriages but my situation is unique and I’m truly terrified of people being cruel. I’ve tried before and that’s what I got :pensive: I know now that my intense levels of stress and lack of nutrition and calories was why we were having so much trouble (complicated situation but I didn’t know how stressed I truly was for a long time and thought I was eating the healthiest possible so I didn’t understand why I was miscarrying/not conceiving).

I’m not recommending any health advice, especially since it’s been a year since you posted this, but I used herbs and supplements for about half a year and now I have a wonderfully kind, caring, thorough naturopathic doctor that is helping my husband and I and everything is turning around SO WELL! [name_f]My[/name_f] periods are still wonky but the pain and flow are so much better. I’m starting to not dread them anymore! I even high fived my husband because this last one was so manageable and dare I say easy?

I have also been and am still afraid of how my body will change and feel out of my control while pregnant. So I completely understand how you feel. But since everything is getting better now, in ways I hoped for but kind of didn’t fully believe would really happen, I have a lot more faith that I’ll be okay and be supported throughout the changes.I really like what @whatchamacallit said about natural instincts taking over. [name_f]My[/name_f] husband keeps saying this to me because he truly believes what I have been telling him all along: I believe and have felt my whole life that I am meant to be a mother. It is all I have every wanted. I didn’t like school at all, I have never been compatible with working. I’m too much of a free spirit for those things. Being a wife and mother and adventurous homemaker is where it’s at for me!

[name_f]My[/name_f] eating still isn’t stable but the naturopath is working with me on food allergies and sensitivities as well as hormone balance and nutrition specifically for my body, so I’m hoping to have our first little baby next year!

Thank you for posting this and thank you to everyone who commented! [name_f]My[/name_f] hope, faith and surety were already growing and reading this thread got me that much farther! You brave souls :sparkling_heart: :blush: