- Anorexia nervosa has an increased prevalence in women of childbearing age. According to the study authors, up to one in 200 pregnant women will have the disease.
- 5% of patients with anorexia die from it.
“Many principles developed for the treatment of anorexia nervosa in adults are applicable during pregnancy but require modification and adaptation to the physiological, psychological, and social changes of pregnancy. Growth and well-being of the fetus must also be considered.”believe scientists from the University of Monash, Australia, who have just published a study on the management of anorexia in pregnant women, published in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry.
Risks for the expectant mother and the baby
Anorexia is an eating disorder characterized by severe and voluntary food deprivation lasting several months and/or years. Very often it is associated with psychological problems. In the case of pregnancy, anorexia can become very dangerous for both the expectant mother and the baby. For the pregnant woman there is a risk of nutritional and vitamin deficiencies, underweight, increased stress as well as depression and/or fear of childbirth. The baby may also be underweight, premature, or stillborn. Although the consequences of this eating disorder are serious, until now doctors have not had any clear recommendations on how to treat it during pregnancy.
A multidisciplinary approach
Australian researchers have therefore conducted research to find out what advice should be given to healthcare professionals. “The management of anorexia nervosa requires a multidisciplinary team approach with expertise in mental health, specialty medical care and dietetics. During pregnancy, obstetricians, particularly those who manage high-risk pregnancies, physicians and nutritionists specializing in pregnancy, pediatricians and psychiatrists specializing in obstetrics” should all be involved in the treatment of anorexia, they stress.
The authors believe that the care provided must relate to mental, obstetric, medical, and nutritional health. “Measurements used outside of pregnancy, such as body mass index, have not been shown to be meaningful during pregnancy. It is clear that the assessment and surveillance measures and tools for anorexia nervosa associated with pregnancy need to be modified.” says Megan Galbally, one of the authors of the study. In other words, all health professionals specializing in monitoring pregnant women must be involved.