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Pregnancy Triggers Binge Eating in Some

Study Shows Lower-Income Women Especially at Risk for Binge Eating During Pregnancy

Eating Disorders and Pregnancy continued...

Only 37 (0.1%) women reported being anorexic before pregnancy, and it was not clear from the study how this disorder manifested during pregnancy and beyond.

Of the four eating disorders examined, binge eating disorder was the only one associated with a significant number of new cases occurring during pregnancy.

The fact that low socioeconomic status was a risk factor for developing the disorder during pregnancy points to psychological and social stresses playing a role, Bulik says.

The study appears in the August issue of the journal Psychological Medicine.

"It's possible that the combination of biology and high stress may make pregnancy a biological trigger of the disorder," she says.

The Role of Health Care Providers

The University of North Carolina researchers will next examine the impact of eating disorders on the babies born to the women in the study.

But the interim findings make it clear, Bulik says, that many pregnant women struggle with eating disorders.

"This has to be on the radar screens of doctors, midwives, and all health care providers who see women during pregnancy," she says.

University of North Carolina professor of psychiatry Maria LaVia, MD, who was not involved in the study, agrees.

LaVia says it is critical that women struggling with eating disorders tell their pregnancy health care providers about their condition. And it is just as critical that the health care providers help their patients deal with the eating disorder without judging them.

"That is hard for many caregivers who don't specialize in the treatment of eating disorders," she says. "But women shouldn't be made to feel ashamed."

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