The Stork's Surprise

Anorexic Women More Likely to Have Unplanned Pregnancies

Pregnancy and "thinking thin" aren't exactly two kindred spirits. But according to a new study from UNC Chapel Hill and Norwegian researchers, women with anorexia nervosa are much more likely to have both unplanned pregnancies and induced abortions.

In the study, which appears in Obstetrics & Gynecology, researchers found meaningful differences in delivery age and unplanned/unwanted pregnancy rates between those with anorexia and those without an eating disorder:

- For those with anorexia, the average age of mothers at delivery was 26.2 years, compared to 29.9 years for women without an eating disorder.

- Half of the women with anorexia reported unplanned pregnancies, compared to only 18.9 percent of those without a disorder.

- 24.2 percent of women with anorexia reported having induced abortions, compared to 14.6 percent of those without a disorder.

Cynthia Bulik, PhD, the study's lead author and director of UNC's Eating Disorders Program, says these findings may result from women with anorexia believing they can't get pregnant if they have irregular or missed periods. Bulik explains, "Just because you're not menstruating, or because you're menstruating irregularly, doesn't mean you're not at risk for becoming pregnant. Anorexia is not a good contraceptive." It's also a terrible diet plan.

Bulik also advises that doctors "need to make sure that they have the conversation about sexuality and contraception as clearly with patients with anorexia as they do with all other girls and women."

In addition, healthcare providers who work with pregnant women need to know when their patients have an eating disorder in order to provide appropriate care. Screening for eating disorders during prenatal visits would be an excellent first step, Bulik says.

University of North Carolina School of Medicine (2010, October 29). Women with anorexia nervosa more likely to have unplanned pregnancies. EurekAlert! Retrieved from


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