Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Dr. Shoshana Bennett

Shoshana Bennett Ph.D.

Eating Disorders and Pregnancy

Dr. Shosh encourages you to speak with a knowledgeable professional.

A pregnant woman called me a couple of weeks ago very concerned that her bulimia had kicked into gear again. It surprised her, since she hadn't had the "urge to purge" feeling for three years. Purging after binge eating (or what the person thinks/feels is binge eating) can take many forms, including compulsive working out, using diuretics, or vomiting on purpose. In her case it was the last of the three. She was worried that if she started purging during the pregnancy, it could hurt the growing baby—she's right, it can. This behavior is not only very dangerous when not pregnant, it's especially dangerous when one is.

I congratulated my new client for calling, since she recognized she needed help. This was a very responsible step for the mom-to-be to take. We discussed how 1) our society has a prejudice about size and how arbitrary and ridiculous this is and 2) even if one buys into the prejudice, being pregnant should be in its own category regarding size. Women in Europe are disgusted with the USA T-shirts for pregnant women stating, "I'm not fat—I'm pregnant." The Europeans think the fact that we in the US feel a need to make sure we're not judged is ludicrous.

With pregnancy comes a sensation of fullness and, hopefully, a growing girth. It's quite common for a pregnant woman with a history of bulimia, even if she's worked on it, to have recurring discomfort with these sensations even though she intellectually and rationally knows she's gaining weight and growing for all the right reasons.

If you are thinking about getting pregnant, already pregnant or a new mom and have any eating disorder in your past, you're high risk for anxiety and/or depression during this time, not just a recurrence of the eating disorder. I encourage you to speak with a knowledgeable professional just as a preventive. There's nothing to lose, and you'll be helping to ensure a more comfortable and happy time for you and your growing family.

Dr. Shosh


About the Author

Dr. Shoshana Bennett

Shoshana Bennett, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist focusing on moods, pregnancy, and postpartum depression.