A study, published in the November 2010 issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, found that women with anorexia are much more likely to have unplanned pregnancies and abortions that women without the eating disorder.
American and Norwegian researchers looked at data collected from 62,000 women.
Of the 62 women who reported having anorexia, as many as 50% had unplanned pregnancies, compared to 18% of the non-anorexic women.
25% of the anorexic women had induced abortions, compared to less than 15% of the non-anorexic women.
Researchers believe the striking disparity may be due to a mistaken belief, among anorexic women, that not getting your period means you can’t conceive.
Though this study is mostly being discussed in terms of eating disorders, unwanted pregnancies and abortion, it’s certainly interesting from a fertility point of view.
There was some buzz on this topic recently, when paper thin E! News hostess Guiliana Rancic said that if Kelly Rippa– who is also very thin– can have so many kids, weight is clearly not an obstacle to conception. She also cited Rachel’s Zoe’s current pregnancy as evidence for her thinness-doesn’t-matter theory. Radcic has been trying to get pregnant for some time.
We often hear that extreme thinness is not good for fertility. Toni Weschler, author of the bestselling fertility bible Taking Charge of Your Fertility, recommends a minimum body fat percentage of 18 while trying to conceive. But it’s likely that body fat is one piece of the large fertility puzzle. Clearly very malnourished women– the ones in this anorexia study and in third world countries– do get pregnant.
But there are many other issues with anorexia and pregnancy: Women who are seriously malnourished in pregnancy are much more likely to miscarry, give birth prematurely or to low-birth weight babies, and/or experience other pregnancy problems.
I came across this research via Kristi Eaton’s Women’s News coverage. In her piece, she wisely points out that in addition to confusion about missed periods and fertility, self-esteem may play a role in these unwanted pregnancies, too. Maybe women suffering from low self-esteem put themselves out there more, with less thought to planning and protection. I also wonder how conscious anorexic women are about their fertility. A denial of sexuality can be a part of the illness. So, perhaps even if it’s not a literal mistake– I have no period, I can’t get pregnant— could it be a subconscious one?
photo:! *S4N7Y* !/Flickr